Child sex fears over late night drinks plan for South Yorkshire car wash unit
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An application was received on behalf of Matki Chai Ltd for a premises licence at a container unit in the car park of Pitstop Car Wash on Fitzwilliam Road, Eastwood, to provide hot drinks and snacks on Friday and Saturday nights from 11am until 2am.
The business, owned by former Yorkshire and England under-19s captain Azeem Rafiq, sells traditional Pakistani cuisine and tea in clay pots, and was represented by Mr Rafiq's business partner, Khurrum Bhatti, at a virtual meeting of the licensing sub-committee on July 10.
Four representations were received in relation to the application, outlining concerns from South Yorkshire Police, Councillor Kathleen Reeder (Valley Ward), and the council's children and young peoples service and licensing service about increased anti-social behaviour in the area, public nuisance, child sexual exploitation or criminal exploitation, and the area being subject to a Public Spaces Protection Order.
Sgt. Glyn Shakespeare from South Yorkshire Police outlined the force's concerns over the license, which he said were mainly over an increase of anti-social behaviour in the area.
He told the meeting: "Between the hours of 11 and two, a fear would be that it would become a hub for people that have had a drink and are drunk to attend there for food. I appreciate it's not to sell alcoholic drinks but for food and refreshment, and that could lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour in an area that is already subject to a public space protection order."
Keeley Ladlow, senior licensing enforcement officer at Rotherham Council told the meeting of the department's concerns, such as anti-social behaviour, and child sexual exploitation in the area.
Ms Ludlow said: "The main concern is an increase in anti social behaviour that might occur from the premises being open between 11pm and 2am.
"Eastwood, and in particular that area of Fitzwilliam Road, has become an area of concern regarding child sexual and crimina exploitation previously.
"There's also been significant work in intelligence to suggest that there is the offering of young women to men in vehicles to engage in sexual activity, and also prostitution in the area."
Ms Ladow added that the area is "prevalent" with young children who are missing from home, who can often be seen walking and playing on Fitzwilliam Road "very late into the night".
She added that should the car park see an increase in anti-social behaviour as a result of the license being granted, it may further increase the risk to those vulnerable youngsters.
Prior to the meeting, the business owners agreed to three conditions with South Yorkshire Police, which were superseded when the application was submitted. The conditions were that the applicants would install CCTV, persons under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult after 6pm, and cannot be on the premises past 11pm, and that staff were to undertake safeguarding children training.
Mr Bhatti, on behalf of the applicant, said this was not the case, and the late night license was required so that members of the Asian community would have somewhere to eat a late evening meal and socialise over tea.
Mr Bhatti told the meeting: "We wanted to put something back into the community. We knew there was a need for this, the Asian community, the Muslim community, they drive all the way to Bradford for this, there's nothing in Rotherham for them, it's quite unique.
"It was fuelled by community projects we've done in Barnsley.
"You may have heard about Desi Foods Barnsley where we provided free meals to the NHS over the lockdown period. We managed to give out nearly 300 hot meals to the NHS.
"I attend the mosque in Eastwood so I know the area very well, all the issues that have been brought up, we are fully aware of. We support the police, we support the council and child safeguarding."
Mr Bhatti added that the late opening hours would provide a place for women in the community who do not want to go to bars and pubs because of their religion or fear of hate crime a place to go in the evenings.
However, the application was refused following a private meeting of councillors Sue Ellis, Christine Beaumont, and John Vjestica of the licensing sub-committee.