THE OWNERS of an Edwinstowe restaurant have been fined after a reported sighting of a rodent led inspectors to a mice infestation and dirty kitchens.
Hubbards must pay £9,600 following the discovery at the Dukeries Lodge on High Street in September 2009.
The firm, which owns a chain of eateries, admitted eight offences following a prosecution brought by Newark and Sherwood District Council.
Mansfield Magistrates’ Court heard council environmental health officers visited the restaurant after a member of the public said they had spotted a mouse in the dining area.
‘Significant evidence’ of a mice infestation was found and the business voluntarily closed temporarily.
Conditions have since improved significantly with £30,000 invested in the kitchen and a new management company brought in to run the business.
After the 18th February hearing the council’s senior food safety officer said the case sent out a ‘message’ to food businesses.
Said Gail Tranter: “We will rigorously enforce the law and use all the powers at our disposal against businesses in our area which choose not to comply with hygiene requirements.”
The offences included five relating to the state the business was being operated in.
Three others were breaches of Hygiene Improvement Notices (HIN) served by the council after inspections.
Besides the mice infestation, officers had also discovered ‘very dirty conditions’ in the main food preparation areas.
Equipment had grease and debris on it and no written food safety management procedures were on site.
Although the rodent problem was dealt with, on later visits officers found procedures had not been put in place, resulting in the HINs.
The premises were visited 15 times by environmental health officers over 10 months, who found the notices’ conditions had not been met, ‘seriously compromising the safety of food intended for human consumption’.
Following an overhaul and the management change, food safety was found to be satisfactory at the site on 3rd February this year.
Representing Hubbards Limited Liability Partnership, Jonathon Hyldon said in mitigation the company admitted responsibility for the breaches and had no previous similar convictions.
He said £120,000 had been spent on the premises since September 2009, including £30,000 on the kitchen and a new management company now ran the business.
He said no breaches took place with a view to profit and the offences were a result of carelessness rather than a reckless breach of the law.
Added Ms Tranter after the rulings: “This case sends out a clear message to the food business community that poor standards will not be accepted.”
At the court hearing, Hubbards was told to pay a £9,600 fine plus £3,674 prosecution costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
After the case Hubbards said they instructed South Normanton-based The Pub People Company to take over management of Dukeries Lodge from the previous management firm in August 2010.
Subsequent inspections by the council have found food safety “has significantly improved with robust systems now in place in relation to all aspects of food hygiene including food safety management procedures, food hygiene training and cleaning”, the company said.
The most recent inspections ruled no further action is required at the premises, the firm added.