Companies that use to own and run the Falstaff Hotel in Leamington fined more than £350,000 after 'putting guests and staff at risk'
The repeated fire safety breaches happened between 2017 and 2019 - the hotel is now under new management and the charges do not relate them
The companies that owned and ran the Falstaff Hotel in Leamington have been fined more than £350,000 after repeated fire safety breaches put guests and staff at risk.
And a judge told the directors of Talash Ltd and Talash Hotels Ltd, brothers Ravi and Sanjay Kathuria, that they have to pay the fines and costs within two years.
The companies, which have a registered address at the Mercure Warwick Honily Court Hotel in Honiley, near Kenilworth, between them pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to 38 fire safety charges.
The hotel is now under new management and the charges do not relate them. Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service said the new owners have installed extensive improvements throughout, including a new fire detection system.
Judge Anthony Potter said the most serious was a breach of a prohibition notice which led to rooms in part of the hotel without a working fire alarm system being let on 47 occasions.
Talash Hotels Ltd, which had admitted nine charges, was fined £212,000 and ordered to pay £34,766 costs, while Talash Ltd, which admitted 29 charges but had a smaller turnover, was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay £32,913 costs.
Tony Watkin, prosecuting on behalf of Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The prosecution relates to a hotel, the Falstaff Hotel in Warwick New Road, Leamington, between November 2017 and December 2019.
“Subsequent to that date, the hotel has been sold by Talash Ltd, which is the ‘responsible person,’ and Talash Hotels Ltd had control of the premises.”
On a number of occasions between November 2017 and February 2019 inspections by fire service officers showed a repeated failure to take general fire safety precautions.
Emergency exits were not kept clear or were locked, there was a failure to ensure equipment and devices were maintained, and fire doors were wedged open or kept open with a latch.
Mr Watkin said brothers Ravi Kathuria, whose address on company records is shown as Stivichall Croft, Coventry, and Sanjay Kathuria, whose address is given as The Spinney, Kenilworth Road, Coventry, were the directors of the two companies ‘and a variety of other Talash companies.’
Inspections by fire officer Michael Leach showed problems including a lack of fire-proofing on ground floor fire exits, where non fire-resistant glass was fitted.
Three fire escapes had UPVC frames and glass which was not fire-resistant, there was a plastic bag over a smoke detector in a first floor bedroom, a lack of fire protection in a corridor, and an alarm display panel showing faults.
The basement, was being used for staff accommodation, but it had not been risk-assessed and the doors were not fire-proof.
“There were 15 visits or inspections by fire officers, and on each occasion serious fire safety breaches were seen. At all times senior personnel were made aware of the safety issues.”
Mr Watkin said that Ravi Kathuria attended an interview in November 2018, and ‘would have been left in no doubt about the seriousness of the problems.’
And he said: “There is a history of non-compliance going back to May 2016 when an enforcement notice had to be served.”
Further enforcement notices requiring action were served in May, June and September 2018, and prohibition notices, the most serious fire officers have the power to serve, were also issued.
One of those prohibited the use of bedrooms in ‘zone 8’ at the Falstaff because the fire alarm system in that area had been disabled.
But before it was repaired, 47 rooms in that zone were occupied on 12 dates, putting all of those occupants at risk.
On other inspections fire doors were found ajar or wedged open, ceiling lights were not working, linen bags were blocking the route to fire escapes from some rooms, there was no evidence of maintenance or testing of the alarm system, and there was no automatic smoke detection in many areas of the hotel.
Mr Watkin added that Talash Hotels Ltd had a conviction in 2012 for breaches of Health and Safety regulations at the Allesley Hotel in Coventry, for which it was fined £50,000.
Fining them, Judge Anthony Potter said: “The relationship between the two companies is far from clear, but Talash Hotels Ltd was and is the parent company for Talash Ltd.
“Over a 15-month period they failed to maintain safety items, and that placed both guests and their staff at a risk of serious injury or even death.
“On 15 occasions the hotel was visited by fire inspectors there was a fault of one sort or another to the fire alarm system. That led to a number of enforcement notices which were still not complied with, in one case for nine months.
“It led to the service of a notice prohibiting the occupation of some 12 rooms in the zone 8 area. Both firms accept they failed to comply with that, because guests were placed in rooms in that zone.
“Twelve rooms were occupied on 47 occasions on 12 dates during that period. That in my judgement indicates that for the majority of the period the prohibition notice was effective it was simply being ignored by both companies.
“This is in my judgement the most serious offence, and I treat it as the lead offence, aggravated by the other offences committed over a substantial period.
“When one is putting people to sleep in rooms not covered by a fire alarm a great number of people are being exposed to the risk of harm.”
In response to the case, Roly Bayley, fire protection group manager for Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “We welcome the outcomes of this case as a strong message to other Hoteliers that action will be taken if fire safety is disregarded.
"The hotel, which has 47 bedrooms for guests and staff, came to our attention after concerns about fire safety were received from a member of the public.
“Our inspectors found serious and systemic fire safety failures which, had a fire occurred in the hotel, were highly likely to have led to widespread loss of life, serious injuries and the potential far reaching damage to the wider community and reputation of Warwickshire as a safe place to visit and stay.
“Our dedicated fire protection team work tirelessly to support all businesses that set out to comply with fire safety regulations. Sadly, in this case, the owners of Talash Hotels Ltd chose not only to ignore this support, but also elected to breach a prohibition notice allowing part of the building to be used for guest sleeping accommodation, even though they knew of the serious problems with fire detection and the fire alarm.”
“In this situation, Talash Hotels Ltd failed to meet their duties in taking all the necessary precautions to meet the fire safety standards required by law. Their case serves as a reminder to all business owners about how extremely important fire safety responsibility is in their role.”
“We would like to make it clear that since our investigation the Falstaff Hotel is no longer part of the Talash Hotel Group. It’s now under new ownership and the hotel has undergone extensive improvements throughout, including a new fire detection system.”