A RESTAURANT in Wargrave has closed down only weeks after an illegal worker was arrested in a raid by immigration officials.
Haweli in High Street has already been replaced by an Italian restaurant called Da Toni.
The closure happened last month before Wokingham Borough Council had made a decision on the restaurant’s application to renew its licence.
The application was made earlier this year but the Home Office had asked the council to review the case.
The department can ask for such a review if it believes that the licence holder will fail to meet conditions regarding the prevention of crime and disorder, such as employing illegal workers.
A hearing was due to take place on May 9 but was deferred to May 29, by which time Haweli had left the premises. A sister branch in Twyford remains open.
The restaurant had been raided twice by immigration enforcement officers since November and several men were arrested on suspicion of overstaying their visas.
In the second raid in March, a 39-year-old Bangladeshi man was arrested. As officers entered the premises, he ran from the rear of the property but was chased and caught.
The Home Office said the raid was the result of intelligence information.
The business was served with a referral notice, which means that a penalty of up to £20,000 can be issued for each illegal worker found unless the employer can demonstrate that appropriate right-to-work document checks were carried out.
These include records of passports or Home Office documents confirming permission to work.
At the time, restaurant manager Shez Begum said the arrested man had been living at a flat above the restaurant and was not an employee.
He said: “We own the downstairs restaurant and one of the flats but the rest is let separately.
“It used to be a hotel and we use one of the flats for our staff accommodation and changing rooms.
“We gave the details of all the employees working to the Home Office. Due to a previous visit, we have to keep records.”
In November, four Bangladeshi men were held at Haweli on suspicion of working illegally.
The restaurant was temporarily closed as a result and issued with a compliance order, which requires the business to check its employees’ right to work in the UK, allow immigration officers to inspect the premises and inform immigration enforcement in writing before opening any other business.
Then manager Raj Miah said the business had
co-operated with the Home Office and provided paperwork proving the men’s right to work in this country. The business was issued with a civil penalty for £45,000.
Councillor Norman Jorgensen, chairman of the joint public protection committee, a shared licensing service for Berkshire, Bracknell and Wokingham, said: “The Home Office immigration department applied for a review of the Wargrave Haweli restaurant’s licence.
“Following the hearing on Tuesday, May 29, the Home Office withdrew the application following the transfer of the licence to the owner of the new business at the premises.”
Wargrave Parish Council had raised no objections to the licence being renewed.
Haweli operated from another property in High Street before moving across the road last year. It regularly supplied food for community events, including school quiz nights and talks at Woodclyffe Hall in High Street.
Raids on the sister business in Twyford in 2014 and 2017 found nine illegal workers and the company was fined £90,000.