UK Court Slaps Fine on Iconic India Club Over Mice Infestation
Goldsand Hotels, which manages the India Club and the Hotel Strand Continental, admitted in court to four breaches of environmental health regulations.
There are new woes for the renowned India Club, which was a hub for Indians in London during the Independence movement in the 1930s and 40s. Apart from battling interior redevelopment plans, the club was dealt with another blow when the Westminister magistrates’ court imposed a fine of £4,122 after inspectors found the building overrun with mice.
Goldsand Hotels, which manages the India Club and the Hotel Strand Continental, admitted in court to four breaches of environmental health regulations on Feb 7. The verdict came out on Feb. 16.
During the proceedings, the prosecution told the court that mice had been burrowing through its ceiling, and there were mouse droppings and dirt in the kitchen, bar area, dry storage room, on the kitchen shelves and in the kitchen service areas.
According to prosecutor Kirsty Panton, in the years 2015 and 2016, the restaurant did not pay attention to officers who told them to make “significant” changes. “The state of the premises was appalling and fell far short of the appropriate standard required. The prosecution submits that there was a serious failure to address the risks and allowed these breaches to subsist over a period of time,” she said.
Panton invoked the symbol that India Club stands for to point out how the historic venue should be maintained. “It was originally set up by the India League as a symbol of post-independence friendship and understanding between India and the UK. The relevance of this is how the public see the restaurant and the standards that are expected, not only what you would expect from any restaurant but particularly of one with such symbolism.”
Councillor Danny Chalkley, the Cabinet member for city highways and public protection, was quoted by the Times of India saying: “There is no excuse for a dirty kitchen in any of Westminster’s restaurant… Inspectors found mouse droppings and poor practice at the Strand Continental, and this fully justifies a fine of over £4,000.”
The Goldsand Hotels said in a statement it was “deeply disappointed” by the findings of the 2016 inspection and “swiftly took action to make sure nothing similar ever happens again.”
Goldsand Hotels director Yadgar Markar blamed the menace to the building’s proximity to Aldwych station in an earlier Times of India report. “Ever since that time (2016 inspection), we have made a lot of improvements and our star rating has gone up. Two days ago we had the food inspector in and she prepared a very good report. We are next to Aldwych station and the whole area is infested with mice. We try to block all the holes because they travel from one building to another. We have pest control coming and we just try to keep an eye out constantly,” he said.
The club, which was established by VK Krishna Menon, India’s first high commissioner to the United Kingdom, was a meeting point for members of the India League, which was founded by Annie Besant in 1921, and campaigned for Indian Independence. The Club, which was frequented by the likes of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Edwina Mountbatten, and Indira Gandhi, was once visited by Indian nationalists, writers, intellectuals and politicians.
India Club is also fighting against the proposal by Marston Properties to demolish and remodel the building into a 30-bedroom modern hotel. Markar has launched a petition against the proposal and asks that India to be awarded the status of English Heritage.