Dagenham restaurant fined £3k for breaking smoke-free laws

The owner of Restaurant La Maria in Longbridge Road, Dagenham was fined in court over breaching smoke-free law

The owner of Restaurant La Maria in Longbridge Road, Dagenham was fined in court over breaching smoke-free law - Credit: Google

A Dagenham restaurant owner has been ordered to pay more than £3,000 for breaching smoke-free laws during a “lock-in party” held amid Covid restrictions.

Barking and Dagenham Council says a crowd of people were found drinking and smoking inside Restaurant La Maria by enforcement officers in the early hours of October 17, 2020.

The council workers had responded to noise complaints and reported breaches of Covid regulations, which at the time prevented households from mixing and imposed a curfew on hospitality businesses after 10pm.

They visited the Longbridge restaurant at 12.44am and found the shutters down but could hear music inside, according to the town hall.

After gaining entry, a “large crowd of people” were reportedly seen sitting around drinking and smoking cigarettes.

The council said Florin David Olteanu, 32, who runs the restaurant, initially denied any wrongdoing and claimed no smoking had taken place.

But body-worn cameras had captured it on film and he was told that opening windows did not mitigate the offence.

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

Mr Olteanu did not attend a hearing at Barkingside Magistrates Court last month and was prosecuted in his absence under Section 8 of the Health Act 2006 for failing to prevent smoking in a smoke-free premises.

He was ordered to pay a fine of £2,000 as well as £579 costs to the council and a victim surcharge of £190.

Mr Olteanu’s company, the Restaurant La Maria Limited, was also issued a fine of £500, with a further £50 victim surcharge.

Cllr 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.

"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 council says the apparent breach of Covid curfew laws was reported.