An east Reading pizza takeaway had its booze licence suspended for three months on Tuesday, after illegal workers were found at a visit from Home Office Immigration Enforcement earlier this year.

Representatives from the Home Office, Thames Valley Police and the Reading Borough Council (RBC) licensing called for Tops Pizza’s licence to be revoked after three illegal workers were found on a visit in April.

But the Cemetery Junction restaurant was spared revocation after its legal representative, Matthew Phipps, argued that the ‘Tops Pizza Reading’ franchise had employed illegal workers without the knowledge of franchisor Tops Pizza Ltd.

He said: “There are illegal workers employed but not by the premises licence holder. It is not the licence holder doing that exploitation.

“That is something that the franchisee undertook unbeknownst to the licence holder.”

The business now has three months to meet licensing conditions, after the committee agreed to the representative’s plea for a suspension of the licence.

Tops Pizza Ltd has 41 premises which are owned by each individual franchisee, with the premises licences held by the franchisor.

For the Reading franchise, the designated premises supervisor was director Ali Yazdi, but Mr Phipps said the director was effectively absent from the premises.

Mr Phipps said: “We are very sorry that we are here. We have let ourselves down. We have let you down.

“This case has provoked a wholesale review of Tops Pizza.”

Franchise owner Masood Aghabarari’s contract has now been terminated and the business was liquidated in November, with new owners taking over.

The Home Office made three visits in total, with the illegal workers found on the third visit, wearing full uniform.

Richard French said the company had shown a “complete lack of licensing compliance” and questioned how three extra months would help considering the company had already been given 10 months following the first Home Office visit in February.

On the same evening, a review of Beijing Noodle House, where one illegal worker was found, was adjourned after the premises licence holder (PLH) surrendered his licence.

The new owners of the Chinese restaurant on West Street have 28 days to put forward a new PLH, which would then be reviewed by the committee in January, or lose the licence altogether.