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Gurkha Square restaurant forced to beef up door staff after licensing review

Rahul Vashisht
Berkshire : Drunken street brawls started by Gurkha Square customers will not force the Reading restaurant to stop selling alcohol. Despite repeated violent incidents linked to the Gun Street tandoori, Reading Borough Council's licensing committee decided not to ban it from selling booze. But they must now have doormen for events and Friday and Saturday nights to help put a stop to the street fights. On Friday the committee reviewed the restaurant's alcohol licence following three serious incidents in the last three years. The first was a mass brawl on December 12, 2012 at around 1.45am. 

Around 20 Nepalese males were involved in a street fight which required as many police officers to break up. CCTV footage of the brawl was played at the licensing meeting, which showed one man in a white top agitated while others tried to hold him back. The scene quickly escalated and resulted in a doorman and a young woman passing by being thrown to the ground. Six men were given suspended sentences at Reading Crown Court on Monday, March 9 with another due to be sentenced on March 20. The second incident occurred on October 14, 2013, two passers-by were assaulted by seven Nepalese males outside the Grosvenor casino.
A police investigation revealed they had been drinking at the Gurkha Square and five of them were under 18. The most recent brawl was on December 26, 2014 and involved around 20 people altogether. Two rival groups clashed in a fight that left four unconscious and one with a fractured skull. Police confirmed upon investigating the fight started in the Gurkha Square restaurant before spilling out into Gun Street. Jean Champeau, of Reading's licensing team, said: "It's not the frequency with which these events occur, it's the violence. "Gatherings of this size produce a violent reaction and we have to do something about it." While the committee allowed Gurkha Square to continue selling alcohol, they attached a set of conditions to the ruling.

"It's not the frequency of these events, it's the violence"

The restaurant must maintain a digital CCTV system ensuring all areas, bar the toilets, are monitored. They must also have trained door supervisors whenever there is an event, and a minimum of two after 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. In addition they now have to inform Thames Valley Police of an event 10 days before it takes place. The original conditions stated restaurant staff cannot allow new customers to enter after 10.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays however Reading Borough Council said they would allow some leeway on this. Councillor Paul Woodward said: "We recognise how vital the Friday and Saturday trade is. "We want you to run a good business, but our main concern is this doesn't happen again." 

Concerns were raised over the level of care taken by licensees Deepak Gurung and Dumbar Bahadur Gurung in ensuring those who were too drunk were no longer served, and over the time they stopped serving alcohol in the evenings. There were claims staff had sold drinks to underage customers, however it was pointed out in the hearing that people aged 16 and 17 could be served if they were being supervised by an adult. Furthermore it was pointed out that in the 15 years the restaurant had been open, they only had one visit regarding licensing seven years ago. Additionally despite concerns, Trading Standards had failed to conduct a test purchase. However the committee reiterated the point that managers had a duty of care to those attending and to an extent what happened after they left.

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