An East London restaurant has been fined more than £3,000 for hosting a “lock-in style party” with people smoking inside. Barking and Dagenham Council claims the party was held at Restaurant La Maria in Dagenham in October 2020.
The local council said the restaurant was fined for allowing people to smoke indoors. Barking and Dagenham Council said officers were called to the restaurant after locals complained about excessive noise.
The officers said that when they arrived at the Romanian restaurant at 12:44am they found a large group of people sitting inside smoking and drinking. At the time, businesses were forced by government rules to close their doors at 10pm at the latest.
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It’s also been illegal to smoke inside any public building in England – including pubs and restaurants – since 2007. Council officers said the owner of Restaurant La Maria, Florin David Olteanu, at first denied that any rules had been broken, or that anyone had been smoking in the restaurant. But this was reportedly disproved by footage from body-worn cameras which the officers said showed the crowd smoking.
The case went to Barking Magistrates Court on March 8, but Mr Olteanu failed to show up. He was prosecuted in his absence for allowing smoking in the restaurant. He was fined £2,000 with £579 in costs to Barking and Dagenham Council along with a victim surcharge of £190. The restaurant itself was also fined another £500 as well as a £50 victim surcharge.
In total, the Restaurant La Maria and Mr Olteanu were fined £3,319 by the council. Barking and Dagenham councillor Margaret Mullane, cabinet member for enforcement and community safety, condemned the lock-in party.
She said: “It’s pretty incredible that almost 15 years on since the introduction of the smoking ban, we are still taking legal action against businesses and business owners who think the law doesn’t apply to them.”
The councillor later added: “To be clear, it’s illegal to smoke in an enclosed public space and business owners are responsible for making sure smoking doesn’t take place inside their premises, regardless of what time it is.” The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted the Restaurant La Maria for comment.