28 February 2014

Seafront restaurant fined £10,000 for ‘utterly repellent’ mice infestation

A Brighton restaurant that failed to tackle a mice infestation has been prosecuted for a second time after rodent droppings were found throughout the premises.

Boardwalk Ltd pleaded guilty to five food hygiene offences at its restaurant Ohso Social and was fined a total of £10,000 with £2,514.20 costs being awarded to Brighton & Hove City Council. The business had been previously prosecuted for mouse activity in September 2011.

District Judge Ashworth said ‘he was not dealing with a single day…this was a long term breach of the regulations’. He went on to describe the premises as ‘utterly repellent’ and said ‘this was an appalling state of affairs’.

This latest action shows how enforcement is playing its part to raise standards after Brighton & Hove’s annual food safety plan for 2014/15 revealed that hygiene in the city’s food businesses have continued to improve.

The percentage of food premises achieving a standard of 3 to 5 on food hygiene ratings has increased from 91.4% in December 2012 to 92.9% in January 2014. The number of five star-rated premises has also risen, from 1,311 in April 2012 to 1,469 in January of this year.

In the latest case two officers from Brighton & Hove City Council’s Food Safety team visited Ohso Social, 250A Kings Road Arches in response to a complaint about mice on 14 November last year.

Officers found extensive evidence of mice throughout the premises, with droppings on various places such as the floor in the kitchen, bar and storage areas. Deep cleaning was needed throughout. 

A pest control contractor had identified holes which needed filling in on reports dated 2 October, 14 October and 7 November 2013 but this proofing had not been fully completed. The contractor had also requested that old mouse droppings were cleared up, to enable monitoring of fresh activity, but this had not been done either. 

Holes and gaps were seen in the ceiling of the dry goods store, behind the bar, under internal and external doors and in the door of the beer cellar.  In the dry good store, mouse droppings were seen on savoury crackers in an inadequately covered plastic box and on bottles of ketchup.  In the kitchen, there were droppings on the floor and a shelf under the draining board. 

There was a thick build up of grease to the wall, pipes and floor behind cooking equipment.  In the bar, there were slices of fruit, dirt and debris such as bottle tops on the floor.  Inadequately wrapped goods, grease and waste food all provide a food source for vermin.

The premises closed the kitchen to undertake a deep clean and disinfection.

Following this the council allowed the premises to re-open to serve food.

Councillor Pete West, chair of the city’s environment committee, said: “It’s particularly disappointing to have to take action against restaurants that have already been prosecuted and warned about hygiene.

“Visitors to restaurants in Brighton & Hove have a right to expect high standards of hygiene in our city and fortunately cases like this are rare because of close work with local businesses. However, Brighton & Hove City Council will not hesitate to take action in these extreme cases.”