A FOG of uncertainty surrounds a flyer inviting smokers to enjoy a shisha lounge at a North-East pub, after its owner denied ever running such an operation at the venue.
Durham County Council launched an investigation into an alleged shisha lounge at The Lodge, in Crossgate Moor, Durham City, after a supporter of Fresh, the anti-smoking campaign, produced a promotional leaflet she claimed had been pushed through the front door of her home in Newton Hall.
Bijan Samadi, The Lodge’s owner, was eventually charged with publishing and distributing a tobacco advertisement, an offence under the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002.
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But at Consett Magistrates’ Court today (Tuesday, April 9), the council withdrew the charge.
Following a two-hour trial, Samadi, 49, was convicted of obstructing two officers sent to The Lodge to investigate the flyer.
However, in the witness box, he denied any knowledge of the leaflet and said he had never run a shisha lounge at the venue.
Asked to explain the flyer, he said: “I don’t know how it’s come about.
“There’s a lot of bad feeling from the neighbourhood towards The Lodge, from the officers I believe personally and from the council.”
However, asked by Sarah Grigor, the council’s lawyer, whether he believed it had been distributed maliciously, Samadi replied: “It’s very difficult to imagine somebody going through all that hassle.”
Trading standards officer Graham Blount and environmental health officer David Hall visited The Lodge, formerly the Pot and Glass, on June 12, last year.
But Samadi refused to answer their questions, the court heard.
Mr Hall said Samadi became very agitated and aggressive – a claim the pub owner denied, saying he had been helpful.
Mr Blount cautioned Samadi and the two officers left the premises.
Kevin Radford, the chair of the bench, said he and his fellow magistrates believed Samadi had intentionally obstructed the officers in the proper exercise of their function.
Samadi, who was of previous good character, was fined £400 and ordered to pay £265 costs and a £15 victim surcharge. He could have been fined up to £1,000.
Samadi declined to comment further afterwards.