A WEARSIDE restaurant has been closed down after firefighters found the boss let staff live in the cellar, had blocked fire escapes and put padlocks on fire doors.
A spot check by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Services in October last year revealed serious safety breaches at Thai Manor in Sunniside.
The building, which is owned by Sunderland City Council, had been leased by businessman Janhangir Queresh since December 2006.
As well as opening the popular restaurant, he also moved six Thai students into two upper floors and let staff live in the cellar.
Fire safety station manager Richard Rickaby said a blaze at the restaurant could have proved fatal, as the fire service had no record that anyone was living at Thai Manor.
He said: “In terms of fire safety, they were very serious offences, because it was across the whole plethora of fire safety and it was not just one deficiency.
“It had the potential for the fire to go unnoticed and for the fire to spread.
“It did have the potential to have fatalities.”
Queresh appeared at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court, where the 51-year-old, from Hendon in Sunderland, pleaded to eight breaches of fire safety legislation at the court.
The court heard rails of clothes were blocking hallways and no fire alarms were fitted in the living quarters, where the only escape route was through the kitchen of the restaurant.
Lynne Bennett, prosecuting for the fire authority, said extinguishers had not been serviced and a smoke detector was taped up.
Peter Thubron, defending, said Queresh’s solicitor should have flagged up fire safety requirements when he applied for a licence to sell alcohol.
He said: “He applied for a licence to sell alcohol and he complied with all the law he thought he had to comply with.
“He did tell his staff what to do in the event of a fire, but there has to be a record of you telling them this and there was not a record.”
Queresh did not cover the alarm with tape, he said, and believed fire safety equipment was being serviced regularly.
He added “He has suffered financially because of this and he and his wife are applying for Job Seekers’ Allowance.
“The investment he paid into the property has gone and he is currently in a very poor financial condition.”
Magistrates heard that inspecting officers were so concerned about the state of the restaurant, that they shut it down and told Queresh his tenants had to leave.
An inspection revealed fire escapes had been locked shut, which Queresh claimed was to prevent burglaries, and kitchen doors were not self-closing.
Chairman of the bench Clifford Jones said magistrates did not have enough powers to sentence the businessman, who will appear at Newcastle Crown Court on April 22.
Queresh, of Corporation Road, was released on unconditional bail.