The former chef and owner of a Cheshire restaurant and a businesswoman who took over its running have been prosecuted for serious breaches of fire safety laws.
Appearing at Chester Crown Court on Tuesday (27 June), Mark Ellis, who owned the Allium Bar and Grill with Rooms in Tattenhall, and Deborah Cruse who later ran it, were given community orders and ordered to pay costs after both pleading guilty to charges under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service launched an investigation into the premises in March 2019 after a member of the public staying in one of the five guest rooms raised concerns.
Inspectors found there was insufficient means of escape and poor fire detection and warning. There was no evidence of fire drills being undertaken, testing of warning systems or emergency lighting or of a suitable fire risk assessment.
Prosecuting, Joseph Hart: “Effectively, there was a wholesale ignorance of proper fire safety measures, not isolated, but across the board.
“It is quite clear it was a premises where there was a heightened risk of fire because of the kitchen and heat sources, and the risk to individuals was higher because it was sleeping accommodation where people are particularly vulnerable and particularly reliant on fire detection, emergency exits and emergency lighting.”
Following the inspection, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service ordered that two of the bedrooms could not be used until remedial work had been carried out. During a further inspection on September 5, 2019, officers found that two members of staff was staying in seperate bedrooms and that its earlier prohibition notice had been breached.
Sentencing, Judge Recorder Lawrence MacDonald, said: “Fire is unpredictable and can widely and quickly spread and have unpredictable and often fatal consequences. But although offences were exposing people to risk, fortunately, there was not an actual fire that highlighted those risks. There was not actual danger experienced by people trying to escape from a fire. It is just fortunate that a member of the public drew the attention of the fire and rescue service to these deficiencies.”
He ordered Mr Ellis to complete 65 hours unpaid work as part of a 12-month community order. Ms Cruse was given 130 hours unpaid work. Both were each ordered to pay Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service costs of £3,000.
Steve McCormick, Head of Prevention and Protection at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We work with people responsible for commercial premises to ensure they have the right fire safety measures in place. We can provide advice and ensure they understand their responsibilities in keeping visitors and staff safe.
“However, when we believe people are being put at risk and premises don’t comply, we have no option but to act and enforce fire safety regulations.
“Hopefully this case will serve as reminder to anyone in Cheshire, who is responsible for sleeping accommodation, to take fire safety seriously and ensure they have a sufficient and adequate fire risk assessment in place.”
Visit the Fire Protection section of our website for business safety advice. Alternatively, please contact the Business Safety Team on 01606 868700 if you have any concerns about the fire safety of a premises in Cheshire.