Council snuffs outs illegal shisha bar

Shisha Equipment
The council confiscated equipment and closed down an illegal shisha lounge following a number of complaints from residents to the council and police about noise and anti-social behaviour.

In January this year the council began receiving complaints regarding the alleged use of 14 Follett Street as a shisha lounge. The property itself is known as 249-251 East India Dock Road but has a rear entrance used by guests to enter the shisha lounge.

Follett Street itself is a quiet street and the residents were being forced to endure long queues of people outside their houses, cars parking in their driveways and many were scared to leave their homes. Residents also had to endure shouting in the street, loud music from both the venue and cars, and occasional fights breaking out in the street outside the lounge.

Planning records confirmed that the lawful use of the premises was as a religious assembly hall, and it didn’t have consent to be run as a lounge. Environmental Health Officers working with the police entered the property on January 20 and confirmed the premises was operating as a shisha lounge.  

The Planning Compliance Team served a Stop Notice and an Enforcement Notice, both of which required the use of the premises to cease. The Enforcement Notice gave one month to remove all of the shisha bar related items from the premises and the Stop Notice required the immediate cessation of the unauthorised use. The operators of the lounge decided to ignore both Notices.

Anti-social behaviour coming from the lounge and the impact on neighbours increased as the venue increased its operations in March, from mainly being open around the weekends, to seven days a week.  At its peak, the lounge was open from 4pm to 7am every day and attracting up to 200 people every night.

The council has powers to prosecute for non-compliance with the requirements of an enforcement notice, but given the seriousness of the ongoing anti-social behaviour, the council took immediate direct action, under Section 178(1) of the Town & Country Planning Act. 1990, entering the property and removing the items associated with the use as a lounge bar.

On April 20, 2017 a coordinated operation from the council’s planning enforcement, smoke-free, community enforcement support teams joined with the police officers entered the premises and removed around 100 shisha pipes, boxes of shisha burning coals, a coal burning stove, televisions, a large sound system and speakers.  Bar furniture, fridges and the bar area itself was also dismantled to ensure that the shisha lounge could not continue to operate.

Owen Whalley, Divisional Director for Planning and Building Control said: “The selfish actions of the owners over several months were driven by personal greed and without any consideration for the nightmare situation they were causing to their neighbours.  We are determined to send a clear message that this behaviour is completely unacceptable and the council intends to prosecute the owners of the premises for their non-compliance with both the Stop and Enforcement Notices.”

Since our direct enforcement action took place, we’ve been contacted by residents pleased that the shisha lounge has remained closed.  We welcome this fact, backed by the council’s own CCTV operations, and we will continue to ensure that this venue remains closed as a public bar.”

Roy Ormsby, Divisional Director for Public Realm added: "There are very clear and strict laws in place to protect people from the dangers associated with smoking in public places.  It was clear in this case that the owners of the lounge decided to ignore a number of legal requirements placed upon them.

An additional factor in this case was the use of the venue to promote smoking.  Some people see the use of a shisha pipe as harmless fun or even a ‘healthier’ option to smoking regular cigarettes.  In fact using a shisha pipe is just as harmful as smoking cigarettes, as it still has tobacco in it, disguised by flavourings and sweeteners.  Smoking shisha also harms others by producing dangerous second-hand smoke and sharing a waterpipe mouthpiece with a number people can also spread nasty and infectious diseases.”

Posted on Monday 15th May 2017