A restaurant has been stripped of its alcohol licence after a ‘shocking’ early-hours brawl which saw belts, bricks and street furniture used as weapons and a man left ‘knocked out cold’ in the middle of the road.
Mesob, in Moss Side, Manchester was hit with the ‘draconian’ punishment after licensing chiefs heard the venue was open four hours later than it should have been when the fight broke out at 5am on Sunday 3 July.
The fight, involving round 15 men and was reported by a council CCTV operator and a member of the public who passed the scene in a taxi.
The Princess Road venue failed to call the police during the incident, which was said to have begun after a group tried to force their way in despite being turned away.
Neither did boss Kidane Mokonen – the premises licence holder – respond when officers arrived and knocked on the restaurant’s shutters in the aftermath of the melee, a town hall panel was told. No CCTV evidence from inside the venue has been forthcoming, despite repeated police requests.
It also emerged the establishment had ‘massively’ changed its layout to accommodate a hairdresser’s salon, without alerting the council’s licensing department – meaning all alcohol sales since alterations made in 2019 were unlawful.
Laura Raine, of the council’s legal services, said that – while the decision was ‘draconian’ – it was also the only ‘appropriate and proportionate outcome’ given the circumstances.
“There is a clear catalogue of evidence of failings by the premises licence holder and the committee had no confidence that the premises licence holder will uphold the licensing objectives,” she said, delivering the panel’s decision.
“The premises licence holder has no regard whatsoever for the conditions of his licence and clearly isn’t working in partnership with the police. His evidence throughout these proceedings has been contradictory and very vague.”
The bar and restaurant had its premises licence suspended at a summary hearing last month. Mr Mokonen then told councillors that only seven people – all staff – had been in the restaurant at the time the violence broke out.
However, CCTV evidence presented by PC Alan Isherwood at a full hearing on Wednesday (Aug 3) showed more than 40 people coming and going between 1am and 5am. A man in a yellow T-shirt emerged from the restaurant and was shown to ‘knock out cold’ one of whom had to be dragged to safety after being left lying in Princess Road.
PC Ishwerood noted this individual only appeared after the fighting, suggesting he had been inside throughout the four unlicensed hours.
“From GMP’s point of view it’s abundantly clear that the premises licence holder has no regard whatsoever for the licensing objectives,” he told the licensing committee.
“The flagrant disregard for the licensing powers coupled with the repeated unanswered requests for CCTV footage were bad enough. But the extreme violence displayed by people that had been inside the premises for four hours after it should have been closed is truly shocking.”
PC Isherwood said that the conditions already in place seemed to be regarded as ‘an aside’ by Mr Mokonen, so imposing additional ones would not be an acceptable solution.
He also noted that Mr Mokonen had ‘notably changed his account’ since the summary hearing, which he found ‘alarming’.
“We have heard that the fight could have occured at any place and at any time,” he added.
“Unfortunately it happened four hours after the premises should have been closed at his premises involving people in his premises. Therefore we have no confidence whatsoever in the premises licence holder and we ask the committee to revoke the licence today.”
Mr Mokonen – who could be seen in footage trying to defuse the situation – admitted the venue was used by people other than staff to ‘play cards and chat’ during the early hours. But he insisted his earlier evidence had been a ‘misunderstanding’.
Solicitor Natasha Bournes, representing Mr Mokonen, said that it was a ‘one-off’ incident and his actions in trying to break up the fight, addressing issues with his CCTV and donating bread to the local food bank showed he wanted to ‘better the community and not make it worse’.
“Yes, he has not covered himself in glory, yes, the fight was atrocious and should not have happened, yes it would not have been helped by the fact people were coming and going until 5am,” she said.
“But, as you’ve heard, it was not done because he is trying to make profit for himself, but because he is trying to make his restaurant a community hub. Has he learned a lesson? Undoubtedly, yes.”
The panel was also told that alterations had been through the council’s planning department and Mr Mokonen was unaware a separate application had to go to the licensing team.
Ms Bournes asked the committee to stop short of revocation and instead suspend the licence for three months. This, she said, would allow Mr Mokonen a chance to recruit new door staff, sort out his CCTV and address any other issues so no such incident would occur again.
But the panel ultimately decided to fully revoke the licence following deliberations, making clear they did not believe parts of Mr Mokonen’s account.
The committee also decided the venue would not be able to sell alcohol during the 21-day period it has to lodge an appeal. However, it will still be able to open as a cafe until 11pm, albeit without alcohol.
The three-strong panel was chaired by Councillor Fiaz Riasat and also included Coun John Flanagan and Coun Glynn Evans.