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Lock-in smoking breach lands Dagenham restaurant owner a lofty fine

FineTags Adults , Business , Council , Residents

A Dagenham restaurant owner has been ordered to pay more than £3,000 after breaching smoke-free laws.

Mr Florin David Olteanu, 32, who runs Restaurant La Maria, was reprimanded after being caught hosting an illegal lock-in style party by Barking and Dagenham Council enforcement officers.

The incident took place in the early hours of 17 October 2020, when council workers responded to noise complaints and breaches of Covid-19 regulations, which at the time prevented households mixing and imposed a curfew on hospitality businesses from 10pm.

Officers visited the premises on Longbridge Road, Dagenham, at 12.44am and found the restaurants shutters down but could hear music inside.

Upon gaining entry, a large crowd of people were sitting around drinking and smoking cigarettes.

Although Mr Olteanu initially denied any wrongdoing, claiming no smoking had taken place, enforcement officers pointed out body-worn cameras had captured the offences on film and that opening windows did not mitigate the offence.

Councillor Margaret Mullane, Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Community Safety 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. Not only this, they were also breaking Covid regulations where the majority of people were following the rules to keep each other safe.

“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.

“Evidence shows smoking is linked to all kinds of serious health issues, and the ban is there to protect other people from its harmful effects. We will always take action against anyone who breaks the law in this way.”

Since 1 July 2007 it has been illegal to smoke in any pub, restaurant, nightclub, and most workplaces and work vehicles, anywhere in the UK.

Olteanu did not attend the hearing, which was held at Barkingside Magistrates Court on Tuesday 8 March, and was prosecuted in his absence under Section 8 of the Health Act 2006 for a failure to prevent smoking in a smoke free premises.

He was ordered to pay a fine of £2,000 with £579 costs to Barking and Dagenham Council and a victim surcharge of £190. Alongside this, Mr Olteanu’s company, the Restaurant La Maria Limited, was also issued a fine of £500, with a further £50 victim surcharge.

The issues of Olteanu’s restaurant operating outside of the Covid-19 curfew laws was reported.

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