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Calls for tougher laws to tackle rogue shisha cafes in Brent

PUBLISHED: 07:25 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 07:25 08 March 2019

Habaybna shisha cafe on Wembley High Road convicted in 2017 (Picture: Google)

Habaybna shisha cafe on Wembley High Road convicted in 2017 (Picture: Google)

Archant

Councils are calling on the government to give them more powers to help tackle rogue shisha bars.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is leading the charge against “lawless” premises, which, it says, often ignore warnings around smoking and fire safety.

Currently shisha bars do not face the same licensing laws applied to pubs, clubs and bookmakers.

The LGA added that prosecutions can take months to secure, while some owners are “undeterred” by the one-off fines of up to £2,500.

Brent Council has closed six rogue shisha bars in the borough, prosecuted 43 and has issued more than £114,000 in fines – but it wants more power to clamp down on illegal activity.

Cllr Tom Miller, responsible for community safety at the council, said: “Many shisha bars have become magnets for anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.

“Licensing works for pubs and casinos – I would like to see the Government introduce similar powers so that we can regulate shisha bars and, ultimately, make Brent safer.”

He explained that these premises can be closed for a range of violations but, often, this is only for a short period of time.

This means that rogue shisha bars, which break smoking and fire safety laws and encourage criminal activity, can continue to open even after they have been prosecuted.

Introducing licences would address such problems, and the LGA wants local authorities to have the power to vet owners, provide greater monitoring and shut them down permanently if necessary.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “The growing popularity of shisha bars and the lawless way some of them are being run exposes the loopholes that exist in our out-dated and inflexible licensing system.

“The Government needs to make it easier for individual councils to regulate rogue shisha bars by giving them the power to license and regulate them in their areas.

“Most owners want to run their businesses responsibly, but councils need tougher powers to take action against those deliberately exploiting the law due to gaps between different frameworks.”

He added that one of the biggest concerns is children accompanying adults into shisha bars and inhaling dangerous smoke.

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