Delayed license dispute over cocaine traces at Persia, Church Road, Hove

Police and an owner of the venue have fallen out over whether advice has been given to tackle drug use in the toilets at the Hove site.

The exchange took place at a permitting panel where council members were told that police in Church Road, Hove, had twice found high levels of cocaine in Persia.

Emad Abdolkhani, 33, who owns the venue, told councilors he has plans to lower and remove flat surfaces in the toilets.

At the Permissions Panel hearing, Sussex Police Permissions Officer Hannah Staplehurst said police sent advice and recommendations on removing flat surfaces to Mr Abdolkhani’s representatives on Tuesday October 25.

However, Mr Abdolkhani said he was awaiting word from police before making any changes to discourage drug use in the toilets.

Sussex Police wiped down surfaces during a license inspection after Mr Abdolkhani applied to Brighton and Hove City Council for a later license earlier this year.

He withdrew his original application and submitted a revised application for late licensing in October.

Police then conducted a second control panel and found MDMA – better known as ecstasy – along with high levels of cocaine.

Police and council licensing officials initially rejected the revised request – but the council licensing team withdrew its opposition to alcohol sales from 11am to 11.30pm daily after Mr Abdolkhani announced he would operate the venue as a restaurant after 7pm.

Its current “cafe-bar” license requires that substantial food be available to customers who drink alcohol until 10 p.m.

But a “restaurant” license would mean customers would have to have a meal if they wanted to drink alcohol – and under the council’s licensing policy, that would allow for a midnight closure.

The Argus: Persia Restaurant is located on Church Road, which is known for alcohol and drug crimePersia Restaurant is located on Church Road, which is known for alcohol and drug crime

Ms Staplehurst told the panel of three council members – Christopher Henry, Jackie O’Quinn and Dee Simson – that the force had “no confidence” in Mr Abdolkhani’s management. She said other venues in the city were getting “zero” readings as officers ran drug stops.

Sussex Police had concerns about a “split” license and said it could prove difficult to enforce if people drank wine in the late afternoon and then said they would have to eat after 7pm if they were drinking more wanted to.

Only one other venue in Brighton and Hove operated such a licence, the panel heard, and it closed as a cafe at 3pm and reopened as a restaurant from 6pm to 9pm.

Ms Staplehurst said: “Sussex Police cannot support this application while they have current drug problems.

“No action has been taken to prevent drug use, although the licensing team received an email on October 25 telling us that changes are being made.

“Sussex Police have no confidence in the management of these premises that they can or should have a separate operation allowing for a cafe until 7pm and a restaurant after that.”

She said police had recorded hundreds of violent crimes within a quarter mile of the venue, many related to alcohol or drugs. There was no indication that they were directly connected to Persia.

From August last year to July this year, officers dealt with 260 violent crimes, 356 incidents of antisocial behavior and 69 incidents of nearby property damage.

Central Hove’s Electoral Division was also ranked fifth worst out of 21 for alcohol-related crime and disorder in Brighton and Hove.

Neighbor Tanya Petherick also objected to the license extension due to concerns about increased noise as some customers might overlook her garden.

In the 14 years since moving to the area, she said the character of Church Road has changed from mostly shops and offices to more bars and restaurants.

She had objected to previous job applications at the site, saying she did not have a good relationship with Mr Abdolkhani.

She mentioned a lack of planning applications and said that Mr Abdolkhani was barred from serving as a director of the company in August last year for under-filing his taxes. However, she was told that these issues were not a matter of licensing considerations.

Ms Petherick said: “I’m not really surprised by some of the things police have found in relation to the applicant not trying to meet their criteria to improve the situation for local residents. That is also our experience.”

Mr Abdolkhani’s representative, Knight Training’s John Milton, said drugs were a problem in licensed venues across the country, adding that his client would work with Sussex Police to find ways to deter people from using the toilets for drug use.

Mr Milton said: “If it’s going to be a restaurant, those two drugs, MDMA and cocaine, just don’t apply in a restaurant environment.

“From 7 p.m. at night it will be completely a restaurant. If that requires hourly or half-hourly toilet checks, the applicant is perfectly willing to settle for someone going there.”

The licensing board withdrew to make its decision, which was due to be published within five working days. Delayed license dispute over cocaine traces at Persia, Church Road, Hove

Fry Electronics Team

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