Traces of drugs have been found again in the toilets of a restaurant in Hove, prompting police to object to the owner’s application to stay open later.
Sussex Police carried out a licensing inspection in August when Persia, in Church Road, previously applied for a late licence.
Inspector Michelle Palmer-Harris said: “Due to drug intel within the local area, we also swabbed the venue and found three high readings for cocaine within the toilets.
“We have since returned to the premises … They still have high readings for cocaine within the toilets as well as MDMA (ecstasy).
“We have asked the premises to provide us with an action plan to deal with this issue.”
Inspector Palmer-Harris also said that police had recorded hundreds of violent crimes, many of them drink or drug-related, within a quarter of a mile of the venue.
From August last year to July this year, officers dealt with 260 violent crimes, 356 incidents of anti-social behaviour and 69 cases of criminal damage in the vicinity.
Most incidents occurred between 7pm and midnight at weekends, Inspector Palmer-Harris said, and were likely to involve people drinking and taking drugs.
She added that Central Hove, the ward which included the restaurant, was ranked fifth worst out of 21 electoral wards for drink-related crime and disorder in Brighton and Hove.
The restaurant’s owner Emad Abdolkhani, 33, wants to be able to serve late-night refreshments at the premises – food, hot drinks and soft drinks – until a proposed new closing time of midnight. Persia currently closes at 11pm except on Sundays when it shuts at 10.30pm.
Mr Abdolkhani also wants to be able to serve drinks until 11.30pm each night compared with the current cut-off time of half an hour before closing.
Earlier this year, Mr Abdolkhani sought a licence to trade until 1am at weekends. But he withdrew his application three days before it was due to be decided by a Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel.
The police objected to his previous application in part because they found traces of drugs in Persia’s toilets although partly because of other breaches of the conditions attached to the premises licence.
Mr Abdolkhani said at the time that one of the challenges of running a business in Brighton and Hove was the drugs problem. He added that he could not go into the toilets with his customers.
But he wanted to vary the licence to extend his trading hours to allow enough time for a “second sitting”.
Inspector Palmer-Harris said: “Due to the risks associated with intoxication, the city has several initiatives that support police and other emergency services in safeguarding the public. However, none of these stretch out to Hove.
“Granting this later licence could have a negative impact on emergency service providers.
“It’s for this reason that even if we take the breaches and drug results out of the picture, Sussex Police still would not be able to support this variation.”
Council licensing officer Emily Fountain said that Persia was in Brighton and Hove’s “special stress area” where the council applied a tougher licensing policy to try to reduce drink-related crime and disorder.
She said that Mr Abdolkhani had not set out any exceptional circumstances that would justify the proposed later hours.
She added: “The applicant has failed to demonstrate how they will not add to the existing ‘stress’ of the area. The hours requested are contrary to policy.”
Two neighbours have also objected and said that the government’s Insolvency Service had banned Mr Abdolkhani from being a company director in August 2021 for under-declaring tax.
A council licensing panel, consisting of three councillors, is due to decide the application at a virtual meeting next Thursday (1 December), starting at 10am. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.