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‘Better to just leave’: Kebab shop owner slams council’s lifeline to save business

PUBLISHED: 13:40 07 August 2020 | UPDATED: 13:40 07 August 2020

Thetford Kebab house owner, Ahmed Farag (right) and employee, Mohamed Abdelhafez (left).Photo: Emily Thomson

Thetford Kebab house owner, Ahmed Farag (right) and employee, Mohamed Abdelhafez (left).Photo: Emily Thomson

Archant

A town’s kebab shop has been given a year to find new premises after a council made a temporary U-turn on its decision to evict the owners from its premises.

Thetford Kebab house owner, Ahmed Farag (left) and employee, Mohamed Abdelhafez (right).Photo: Emily ThomsonThetford Kebab house owner, Ahmed Farag (left) and employee, Mohamed Abdelhafez (right).Photo: Emily Thomson

Thetford Kebab House could carry on trading for another year, after the town council held a special meeting, on Thursday, August 6, to decide the future of the business.

This comes after Thetford Town Council informed kebab shop owner, Ahmed Farag, that it would be terminating his lease and gave six months’ notice for him leave the premises back in February.

But as the pandemic hit, Mr Farag fought the council’s decision and a petition was started by members of the community to save the business, located at the Shambles, a council owned building, which has been in the town for more than 30 years.

MORE: Town kebab shop given six months to quit building

Despite the new proposal to extend the lease for a further year in order for the business to find alternative premises, Mr Farag said the conditions the council has enforced would mean he would be unable to continue.

Thetford Thetford Council. Photo: Emily ThomsonThetford Thetford Council. Photo: Emily Thomson

“They said the council has agreed to give me a one-year lease, with no automatic renewal, but with a heavy list of conditions,” he said.

“Everything they have asked of me, is to make it so I am unable to continue. It would be better for me to just leave.

“They want me to stop trading at 12.30am, which can be our busiest time.

“I am angry but I am not giving up that easily. I’m not leaving that easily.”

Thetford Kebab House, located next to The Red Lion, Wetherspoons at The Shambles. Photo: Emily ThomsonThetford Kebab House, located next to The Red Lion, Wetherspoons at The Shambles. Photo: Emily Thomson

At the special meeting the council revealed the decision to terminate the lease was to bring the two units “back into daytime retail use”.

And concerns were raised about health and safety, market hygiene issues and the kebab shop’s late opening hours.

In documents from the meeting it states: “The Safer Thetford Action Group, in partnership with others, has worked incredibly hard to address other aspects of anti-social behaviour in the town and just because many of us do not see the late night issues, it doesn’t mean that they are not there.”

But after a close vote, councillors decided to allow the business to stay for one year subject to additional conditions, which include:

• An agreed procedure for fixing identified dilapidation and mandatory health and safety requirements complied with and quarterly health and safety visits to the business

• Deposit for the one-year lease to be increased to the equivalent of two quarters rent and a Section 54 notice will be included in the lease so there will be no automatic renewal

• The lease will be enhanced to include stricter controls in relation to dealing with bin usage, storage and cleaning arrangements around the exterior

• Trading hours to cease at 12.30am to be in keeping with other businesses within the town.

• Payment of the solicitor’s costs of producing the new lease.

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Hugo Batista, owner of Your Tech, located next door to the kebab shop, said the business has always been “a big part of the night life” in Thetford, and its owners are “nice people”.

He said: “I have grown up in Thetford and I have been on nights out and as soon as Ice closes everyone comes to the kebab shop.

“I have seen them give out free water and they really look after their customers.

“I don’t think they have ever had any complaints and there are rarely any conflicts.

“They are good people and they don’t deserve to be kicked out like that. It would be a shame to see them go.”

In response to the community’s reaction and the support he has received so far, Mr Farag added: “I was so happy, I wanted to cry when I saw how many people wanted to help us.

“At the same time, It made me feel so angry that I am going to lose all of this.

“It’s not easy. You can’t buy support and it takes a long time to build that kind of reputation.”

A spokesman for Thetford Town Council said it would not be commenting further.


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