Brewery is fined £160k as rats seen in hotel’s kitchen
Diners enjoying their meals at a prestigious hotel owned by Shepherd Neame were unaware rats were running around the kitchen, beer cellar and laundry room, a court heard.
The pub firm has admitted four hygiene breaches at The Royal Wells Hotel, in Tunbridge Wells, and was fined £160,000 and a judge heard how rats and droppings had been found in food storage areas.
The Mount Ephraim venue was visited by senior environmental health officer Justene Lawal in June 2016 after a tip-off rats were coming up from the basement into the kitchen.
General manager Martin Lyall told her a pest control company, Mitie, had been attending the hotel for some months.
But when hygiene inspectors issued immediate actions and returned several days later they found a rat infestation in the basement with droppings in food storage areas and a dead rat in a trap, and mess in the cleaning stores and beer cellar.
One of the chefs told Mrs Lawal rats were running around the kitchen every day. They got in through numerous holes in the basement.
Mrs Lawal returned the same day with her manager Nollaig Halhan and together they conducted a full inspection which also revealed dirty surfaces, dirty sinks, and drains full of grease.
Rat mess was found alongside supposedly cleaned crockery.
Shepherd Neame offered to sign a Voluntary Food Business Closure Agreement rather than have the officers issue a prohibition notice forcing the hotel to close. The kitchen was cleaned and no main meals could be served.
This was lifted after a further inspection on June 23 after Mitie set 317 glue-traps to catch the rats.
Lee Bennett, defending, said the company, which had no previous convictions for its premises, apologised.
He said the risk to health from rats was low and there was no evidence food had actually been contaminated or any harm caused.
District Judge Justin Barron fined Shepherd Neame £40,000 for each of the four offences and ordered it to pay £9,988 costs.
The Royal Wells was bought by the company in 2012 and a £2.4 million refurbishment was carried out, but this did not extend to the basement.
George Barnes, Shepherd Neame’s property and service director, said: “We apologise and have taken steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
The hotel is now rated at hygiene standard 3, meaning its procedures are satisfactory.
The Royal Wells Hotel, Tunbridge Wells, had rats in its kitchen, inset
George Barnes of Shepherd Neame