Shisha bar in Tooting shut down for flouting smoking laws

Published: Friday, July 12, 2019

A shisha bar in Tooting has been shut down for flouting anti-smoking laws following legal action by the council.

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Shisha pipes waiting to be lit

Café Havana was formerly operating at 96 Mitcham Road – one of a number of similarly branded shisha bars across south London where patrons can smoke flavoured tobacco in hookah pipes and bongs.

Magistrates were told that smoking continued inside the premises even after the business owner was warned it was illegal.

The court heard that environmental health officers visited the café in May 2018 and observed dozens of people smoking shisha pipes.

And despite staff being told verbally and in writing that it was an offence to permit smoking in an enclosed space, when the officers returned a month later they found nothing had changed and the shop was still serving lit tobacco in pipes and bongs to a large number of customers – at £10 a head.

On this second visit the officers seized large quantities of flavoured tobacco, along with numerous pipes, bongs, bowls, scales, charcoal burners and other smoking paraphernalia.

The business owner – Mr Samy Raja – who was leasing the shop unit, was subsequently invited to attend two formal interviews under caution but failed to attend either. As a consequence, the company he owns – Darlington based Guybrand Limited - was prosecuted for breaching the terms of The Health Act 2006.

Guybrand Ltd was convicted and fined £1,800 and ordered to pay legal costs amounting to £10,059.

The company has also been evicted by the shop’s landlord and has reopened as a coffee shop under new tenants.

Another shisha bar in Tooting called Café Havana, but owned and run by an entirely different company, was also subject to legal action earlier this year for breaching smoking laws and for subjecting its customers and staff to potentially lethal levels of toxic carbon monoxide fumes from charcoal burners operating indoors.

The dangers posed to health by shisha bars using charcoal burners in enclosed spaces was highlighted last year when it emerged that carbon monoxide fumes being produced in a third shisha bar in another part of Tooting were seeping into the residential flats above it.

Two young families with small children were breathing in the gas and suffering the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning - headaches, vomiting and flu-like symptoms.

The bar was immediately shut down and prohibited from re-opening until the owner agreed to cease using charcoal and switch to vaping products instead. Fortunately all those who’d suffered ill-effects made full recoveries.

Consumer protection spokesman Cllr Steffi Sutters said: “There's a misconception that shisha is not as bad for you as cigarettes, because the tobacco is flavoured and passes through water first. But the carcinogens and nicotine are still there.

“The people who were visiting this branch of Café Havana to smoke shisha, and of course the staff working there, were taking enormous risks with their health. We would strongly advise people who wish to smoke hookah pipes in this way to switch to vaping methods instead.”

Anyone with concerns about health and safety issues at any local business or commercial premises in Wandsworth can register those concerns by emailing staff who are based at Merton town hall. The email to use is foodandsafety@merton.gov.uk.