Cheers of applause rang around the usually quiet confines of Dundee City Council’s chamber on Thursday after a licence decision for a controversial waterfront restaurant was deferred.
The authority’s licensing board convened to discuss the transfer of the now-defunct Brassica restaurant’s licence, which was to be handed firstly to the administrators Peter Kubik before a second transferal to Dentana Ltd.
Dentana Ltd is a company belonging to Dr Rami Sarraf, who had been a director of Brassica alongside Dea McGill, which had been registered on Companies House as Tayone Ltd.
Former staff have accused the directors of Tayone Foods of withholding more than £20,000 in unpaid wages and tips.
Staff subsequently walked out claiming payments were being delayed.
Dr Sarraf is now attempting to open a new restaurant on the same site – whose premises are leased to the administrators by Dundee City Council – under the name Brasserie Ecosse.
During Thursday’s raucous meeting in the room packed with angry former employees and members of the Unite trade union, Dr Sarraf said he had offered former employees electronic tips “from his own pocket” based on receipts tallied after the restaurant closed its doors in October.
He added employees’ backdated wages are now the responsibility of the administrator.
It initially appeared the licence would be transferred without problem, with the board’s hands seemingly tied under section 33 of the Licensing Act which states, unless an objection has been raised by the police, there can be no issue in transferring between the administrator and Dr Sarraf’s company.
This legal advice went down poorly with the assembled audience and a number of councillors.
Several times the convener, Councillor Stewart Hunter, had to remind members of the public to desist from heckling.
Board member Councillor Ken Lynn noted he was upset over being unable to lodge an official objection to the licence handover, saying “in this instance, the law is an ass”.
The police representative at the meeting indicated they had no reason to object.
During examination by councillors however, Dr Sarraf admitted he had recently reported a matter to the police regarding his former business partner, giving leeway for the board to defer the decision for one month.
The unanimous deferral, for further clarification from Police Scotland, prompted cheers from the public benches.
Dea McGill, the former business partner and one-time director of Tayone Foods, said: “The police have never contacted me regarding any allegations. I have not done anything wrong.
“I have complied with all requests for documents from the administrators.
“This is all smoke and mirrors, he is dragging me back into this. I want nothing more to do with this.”
A spokesperson for Police Scotland said: “We have received a complaint regarding an alleged fraud and inquiries are continuing.”