A takeaway was fined £20,000 for hiring illegal workers it has been revealed, as police bid to strip the firm of its licence.

Favourite Chicken and Pizza in Reading town cente is one of three businesses which could lose their licences after a spate of violence including mass brawls and a nearby stabbing.

Thames Valley Police (TVP) has raised the issues against Bar Iguana, Premier and Favourite Chicken and Pizza, in St Mary's Butts, meaning licences could be revoked or the hours dramatically reduced.

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A decision on the future of the three businesses was adjourned earlier this month because late new evidence regarding the illegal workers was submitted by the licence holder and TVP.

The hearings have now been adjourned once more, it was announced today, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the latest government advice on social distancing.

Illegal workers

Bar Iguana and Premier share one licence, held by Mohammed Saleem, which the council licensing committee could choose to revoke.

Mr Saleem is also the licence holder for Favourite Chicken and Pizza, which is next door.

The new evidence, submitted as part of the process from TVP, suggests Favourite Chicken employed three illegal workers when it was run by the same family under a different name.

The chicken shop was reportedly served fines by the Home Office totalling £20,000 in 2011 and 2015 for hiring one and then two illegal workers and are still to pay the money for the second offence.

"Unwarranted": Response from the licence holder

Mr Saleem has rejected many of TVP's criticisms. In response to the scrutiny, Mr Saleem said a reduction in hours is “unwarranted” and said the shops assist the town in maintaining a vibrant town centre economy and the authorities by providing CCTV and security.

Concerns raised by the police include:

  • Lack of fire risk assessments
  • Safety of the Bar Iguana staircase
  • Poor quality of security and lack of risk assessments
  • Constant failure to comply with licence’s conditions
  • Failure to provide CCTV when requested

Police also discovered Premier has been selling alcohol later than its licence allows, while the shop previously got in trouble for selling alcohol to a 17-year-old.

The area ranks number one for crime in the town centre between 11pm and 6am but supporters say the bar and shop are not the cause of issues.

PC Simon Wheeler suggested the combined impact of the three shops is the reason for issues in St Mary’s Butts.

He said: “The crime occurring outside the premises may not always be directly attributable to the premises in that it may not always start inside, however the fact the premises is open so late is what draws so many people to the area.

“The licence holder has not been able to manage the disorder these people generate.”

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Despite the comments from police, a dozen residents have written to the council asking it not to reduce the hours of the three businesses.

How late can the businesses currently sell open and sell booze?

Premier currently has a licence to open 24 hours a day and sell alcohol from 7am-2am.

But police found CCTV footage showing Premier had sold alcohol to customers after 3am on a Saturday, December 14, 2019 and the shop has also sold alcohol to under-17s in the past.

Bar Iguana can open from 10am-3am and sell alcohol until 2am from Sunday to Thursday, with extended opening hours until 4am and alcohol on sale until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays.

The opening hours for Favourite Chicken are 11pm-5.30am, with no alcohol sold at the premises and hot food available until 5am.

What could happen at the licensing committee?

The hearing for Bar Iguana, Premier and Favourite Chicken was due to take place on Thursday (March 26) but will now take place at a later unspecified date.

Once a meeting has been scheduled, TVP want the licences to be revoked, which would prevent Bar Iguana and Premier from selling alcohol and stop Favourite Chicken from selling food beyond 11pm.

If RBC decides not to revoke the licence for Bar Iguana and Premier, police want one of the premises to be removed from the licence.

The council’s licensing team has supported TVP’s recommendations.

If the committee chooses not to revoke or suspend the licences, TVP want the hours to be reduced dramatically to:

Bar Iguana

Open: 10am-12.30am, Monday-Sunday

Sale of alcohol: 10am-midnight, Monday-Sunday


Open: 7am-11pm, Monday-Sunday

Sale of alcohol: 7am-11pm, Monday-Sunday.

Favourite Chicken

Open: 11am-1am

Late night refreshment (being able to serve hot food): 11pm-1am.