Last week's high profile closure of Tom Aikens' eco-friendly fish and chip restaurant in London has reinforced concerns over difficulties operators face when dealing with local authorities.
Michelin-starred chef Aikens was forced to shut Tom's Place in Chelsea just six months after opening following concerns by local residents, who complained to the council about the smell of chip fat coming from the restaurant's kitchen.
The residents claimed the smell had "halved the value of flats" in the area and their complaints prompted environmental health officers from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to launch legal proceedings against Tom's Place forcing it to shut down.
The restaurant's closure is one of a series of recent cases in which hospitality operators have had problems with local councils. These have included a pub landlord in York who was ordered to knock down a gazebo put up for smokers in his garden or face a £20,000 fine, as well as a Hertfordshire-based publican who was ordered to refuse to serve customers who smoke on the street outside the pub.
Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said that under current legislation it is likely problems will continue.
"While Aikens' case seems to be a one-off, issues regarding licensing, the smoking ban and waste collection seem to be a bigger problem for operators," he said.
"All they can do is hope that local authorities will act in a responsible way when problems arise. But at the end of the day if local residents are complaining councils have to take action to resolve the issues."
Sue Poppelston, partner at solicitors Poppleston Allen, said operators must be aware of the conditions of their licence and comply with these to avoid major problems with the council.
"Residents tend to go directly to the council to complain so regularly checking with the local licensing officer to see whether any problems have arisen can put operators in a good position with the council," she said.
"Being a familiar face can help in situations like this and prevent a case from going straight to the council committee."
By Kerstin Kühn
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