Council reject late night opening for controversial Leeds takeaway after police crime hotspot fears

Licensing chiefs have blocked permission for a takeaway in Leeds city centre to be allowed to stay open into the early hours due to “crime and disorder” in the area.

Juicy Gossip, a takeaway in Lower Briggate, had applied for a temporary event notice to remain open from midnight to 5am on Saturday, March 30 and Sunday March 31.

Juicy Gossip in Lower Briggate (Photo: Mtaylor848).

Juicy Gossip in Lower Briggate (Photo: Mtaylor848).

Police objected to the notice, claiming a number of violent incidents had taken place around the takeaway over the past year and that it was already remaining open late at night without permission.

In its objection, West Yorkshire Police listed six incidents of crime and antisocial behaviour taking place in or around the takeaway during 2018.

A meeting of Leeds City Council’s licensing sub-committee heard from the applicant that none of these incidents involved him or his staff, and that his business needed permission to remain open beyond its 11pm closing time, otherwise it would struggle to survive.

In addition to serving alcohol, businesses also need a licence for serving hot food and drink late at night. If a venue is unable to obtain such a licence from the council, it can submit a temporary event notice to remain open on specific dates. However, the police can asked for this to be refused if they have concerns over crime and antisocial behaviour.

Police licensing officer Pc Kath Arkle told the meeting: “The premises are already connected to crime both directly and indirectly.

“I quoted six incidents in the letter, five of which are directly connected with the venue. The sixth one is just to show that the premises are open and operating any time they feel like, whether they have official authorisation or not.

“It is a very sensitive area of the city where we have real issues with late night crime associated with bars, clubs and takeaways. It is bang in the centre of one of the violent crime hotspots in Leeds city centre.

“The problem being is that Mr Hussain has signed up to the lease for these premises. He has a lot invested in it and, unfortunately, when he didn’t get a premises licence, he has started operating between 11pm and 5am anyway, whether he has authorisation or not.”

Pc Arkle added that an officer working on Friday and Saturday night operations contacted the police’s licensing department to tell them he could see Juicy Gossip operating on the evening of March 23 “at least up until 2am”.

She quoted the officer as saying: “They were doing this with the majority of the lights in the front of the shop turned off. There was a member of staff standing at the doorway who was paying particular attention to myself and my colleague when we passed.

“I would suggest that is someone looking out for police officers or anyone noticing they were operating outside licensable hours.

Pc Arkle continued: “It appears that they have absolutely no regard for the law and authorisations that are required as all the other operators in the city have to do and that profit is being put above everything else including the licensing objectives.”

A council licensing officer told the meeting there was currently a year-long investigation taking place into the premises, and that Mr Hussain would be invited in to discuss what action could be taken.

The takeaway falls within one of Leeds City Council’s cumulative impact policy zones – these make it more difficult for premises to get a licence in a particular area due to drink-related antisocial behaviour incidents.

Mr Hussain told the meeting: “This is the first time I have experienced this policy. I did not understand what the impact policy was.

“I have invested a lot of money in there, nearly a quarter of a million [pounds] has been invested, and I signed a 15-year lease as well.

“I thought maybe I could get temporary event notices to survive there.

“I know I did make a mistake, but I am willing to work with authorities. The incidents never happened in the takeaways.

“I feel everybody’s walking on me. I am willing to work with the police and with the council for a temporary event notice – it’s only for a weekend.

“If I don’t get a temporary event notice, I won’t be able to survive. It is very very difficult for me to survive without a temporary event notice.

“I am only selling food there.”

Among the list of incidents which police say took place was a third party report of a rape, made in March 2018 by someone “very drunk and aggressive, making allegations against takeaway staff”. However, the alleged victim did not cooperate with police and no staff could operate the CCTV.

A customer kicked the door and shouted racial abuse as he wasn’t happy with the price of pizza in July 2018.

An incident of grievous bodily harm with intent was recorded in August 2018 after two groups of men fought each other while waiting for food. The fight escalated outside and one man was stabbed seven times on Leeds Bridge.

In September 2018, a woman reported a theft and accused Juicy Gossip staff, though police found no evidence of this.

The takeaway is only supposed to operate between noon and 11pm but each incident occurred later than midnight, without a temporary event notice in place.

Mr Hussain told the meeting the incidents happened in the street and had nothing to do with the premises. Pc Arkle later confirmed that no members of Juicy Gossip’s staff have been charged, nor are suspects, of the incidents linked to the takeaway.

Pc Arkle responded: “I am not unsympathetic to Mr Hussain’s plight, but unfortunately he signed a lease for a premises that are slap bang in the middle of a violent crime hot spot.

“While ever there is no crime directly connected to a premises, a temporary event notice will not be objected to by the police. As long as there is no crime connected to the premises, you should be okay with temporary event notices.

“Unfortunately, we started to get increase in reports of things connected to the premises, and the unauthorised licensable activities here there and everywhere, and also the contravention of planning permissions.

“We were left with no choice but to object to this notice. There is crime associated with the venue.”

Members of the committee then discussed the case in private for around 30 minutes, before all parties were called back into the meeting.

A council legal officer then stated: “The licensing sub-committee should issue a counter notice.

“The primary reason its concern at the nature and the number of incidents of crime and disorder which appear to be associated with the premises.”