A Fulham bar accused of breaking Covid rules and tormenting local residents can no longer serve alcohol, a judge has ruled.
Jack’s Cafe & Bar in Wandsworth Bridge Road was stripped of its licence in July 2020 after H&F Council received complaints it was ignoring Covid lockdown rules and for failing to address anti-social and disruptive behaviour from customers.
Officers from H&F and the Met Police repeatedly gave advice and warnings to the owner, Vincenzo Defeo – yet local residents continued to complain about the bar playing loud music and allowing customers to drunkenly shout and argue during lockdown.
In a ruling on 30 January, District Judge Angus Hamilton at Westminster Magistrates Court backed the council’s decision and dismissed an appeal from the bar’s owner, saying: “Mr Defeo [has been] consistently behaving in an arrogant, high-handed, belligerent and threatening manner towards council staff and neighbours who dared to challenge his management of Jack’s.”
Cllr Sue Fennimore, Deputy Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, added: “We make no apology for demanding that businesses keep people safe from Covid and respect local residents. This is a victory for all the residents who obeyed the rules during the pandemic.”
H&F Council’s licensing team reviewed Jack’s licence in 2020 and was supported by the Trading Standards team, a local ward councillor, the Met Police, a local residents’ association and 32 local residents.
A local resident told the court that they had lived peacefully in the area for eight years until Mr Defoe’s arrival. From that moment on their experience had been “horrendous, frightening and stressful” and that they felt “held hostage by an irresponsible business owner”.
They provided a statement describing Mr Defeo’s aggressive and dismissive attitude towards residents, his lack of concern for his neighbours, and the noise nuisance, drunken fights and anti-social behaviour Jack’s operation created – often after closing time.
Due to the high number of complaints about Jack’s, H&F Council reviewed its licence due to:
- Deliberate and persistent breaches of Covid-related regulations introduced to protect the public during the pandemic between May and July 2020
- Serious and repeated noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour issues
- Repeated breaches of licence conditions, including failures to supply CCTV footage to the council when requested to do so
- Repeated aggressive verbal attacks by Mr Defeo against council officers visiting or inspecting the establishment, and against residents who approached him regarding disturbances at Jack’s.
The judge added: “I think I can safely say that in all my judicial career I have never encountered a worse witness on his own behalf than Mr Defeo. Equally bewildering was his almost total lack of awareness that he was behaving in a manner that was so clearly damaging to his own case.”
Vincenzo Defeo is the sole director of the company Callow & Ruscoe Ltd that owns Jacks Café and Bar, as well as its manager.
H&F Trading Standards are also progressing a criminal case against Mr Defeo and his company. A trial is set for later this year.
H&F officers have made hundreds of visits to businesses to make sure they are protecting customers and staff by following the Covid regulations. The vast majority were found to be following the rules and welcomed any advice offered by the council.
When visiting officers found businesses flouting the rules, they issued more than 58 warning letters and more than £5,000 worth of fixed penalty notices. “It’s only right that businesses continue to do their utmost to stop the spread of the virus and comply with licensing conditions at all times to protect the interests of residents,” Cllr Fennimore added.
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