Walsall Council has successfully prosecuted the business owner of an Off Licence in Walsall and fined him a total of £8,730.00 for a rat infestation and serious food hygiene breaches at his Darlaston business.
Alap Bhavsar owner of ‘The Drink Shop’ Darlaston Road faced two charges at Dudley Magistrates’ Court on 10 March 2021 of breaching food safety and hygiene regulations. He pleaded guilty to both charges. Mr Bhavsar was charged with failing to have adequate procedures in place at his premises to control pests and a failure to prevent rodents from gaining access to the site.
The Court heard that Environmental Health officers from Walsall Council had discovered the serious breaches at his premises during a routine food hygiene inspection on 29 October 2019. When officers checked the business’ pest control report they found that rodent activity had been recorded just two weeks earlier on 14 October 2019. Council officers then conducted a thorough search of the site including all rooms, floors and higher surface areas not immediately visible to the human eye. A dead rat was then discovered on top of one of the shop’s commercial refrigerators and the council saw wider evidence of a serious rat infestation.
Holes in the shop’s structure were also found in a wall and ceiling junction – and the business owner’s failure to address them, supported the charge that Mr Bhavsar had failed to prevent pests from accessing his shop. The Judge also heard that Mr Bhavsar failed to have adequate procedures in place at his premises to control pests.
The business was formally closed under a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice, on the day of the inspection and a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order was granted at Court three days later. It was allowed to re-open on 15 November 2019 once Walsall Council Environmental Health instructions were met and included immediate actions from a pest control contractor.
Evidence provided in Court included images of;
• A dead rat on top of a large drinks fridge.
• Gnawed and empty noodle containers on top of a large drinks fridge.
• A gnawed bait box and shavings on top of a large drinks fridge.
• Rat droppings on shelving near to food items and in a container on top of a Lucozade drinks fridge.
In mitigation, the solicitors representing Mr Bhavsar said: “It was not denied that there were rats on the premises.”- and stated that the business owner had attempted to eradicate them himself and when this was unsuccessful he then called upon a well-known rodent contractor to address the issue. Two days after the pest control company had visited; Mr Bhavsar had to leave the country for a family emergency and left a shop assistant in charge of his premises.
The Court was handed documentation showing that compliance work at the premises had since been completed to a high standard. The Judge noted Mr Bhavsar’s guilty pleas and fined him substantially.
Councillor Garry Perry, Deputy Leader and portfolio holder for Regulatory Services at Walsall council said: “I welcome this prosecution – the images shown in court were awful and business owners have a duty of care to their customers. Whilst the rat appears to have enjoyed a festive treat, this irresponsible business owner placed others at risk. These were serious offences that required council officers to use emergency powers to close a rat-infested business and safeguard public health.
“We will always take robust action against businesses that flagrantly disregard the law. If businesses do not meet the required standards, robust action will be taken. It is particularly important during this time of Covid we protect the health of our residents and support compliant businesses.”
Notes to editors
- Walsall Council carried out a routine inspection of the business in 29 October 2019
- The business was closed immediately under a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice, (on the day of the inspection) and a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order was granted at Court three days later.
- It was allowed to re-open on the 15th November 2019 once Walsall Council Environmental Health instructions were met and included immediate actions from a pest control contractor.
- Walsall Council charged Alap Bhavsar with failing to have adequate procedures in place at his premises to control pests.
- He also faced a second charge of failure to prevent rodents from gaining access to his business .
- He pleaded guilty to both charges.
- In relation to charge 1 Mr Bhavsar was fined £3,200.00
- In relation to charge 2 Mr Bhavsar was fined £3,200.00.
- The Court ordered him to pay prosecution costs of £2,149.00 as well as the victim surcharge of £181.00.
- The total fine of £8,730.00 to be paid within the next 28 days or face a fine collection order.