Caribbean restaurant faces police challenge

D'Empire Afro-Caribbean restaurant and bar
D'Empire Afro-Caribbean restaurant and bar
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The owners of an Afro-Caribbean bar and restaurant in the heart of Wigan are set to be hauled before councillors amid police claims it should be shut down on public safety grounds.

One-time asylum seeker and later Hindley High student Obi Oderinde opened the doors at D’Empire, in Wallgate, at the end of June, offering Caribbean and West African cuisine, as well as Afrobeat and grime music nights.

And his endeavours were feted by Wigan Council as part of World Refugee Day, after Obi had worked 15-hour days in a pizza parlour before establishing the venue.

His menu includes everything from curried goat and kilishi, a spicy dried beef dish, to okro, green seed pods cooked in palm oil, and grilled fish and jerk chicken.

But now licensing officers representing Wigan Police have called for a review of the fledgling premises as it is said to have become a magnet for trouble over the last five-and-a-half months.

Police say that D’Empire is “failing to promote all four licensing objectives”, namely the prevention of crime and disorder, public nuisance, the protection of children from harm and public safety.

PCs Clive Rigby and Ian Whistlecroft, after inspecting the premises described it as a “chaotic drunken youth club”.

Between 175 and 200 young people were estimated to be packed inside, a number of them under-age, the council was told.

Broken glass littered the floor and there was evidence of cocaine being taken in the toilets, say the officers.

CCTV evidence is said to show the venue, approved as a restaurant, trading as a club until 2.30am, 90 minutes after last orders should have been called.

Under the terms of the licensing review, public views are being sought on the application before a January 11 deadline.

The full review is then expected to take place in the New Year, within the following four weeks, before a full meeting of the licensing sub-committee.

Once the evidence has been considered on both sides, the committee then has the power to impose operating conditions, to help the management turn things around, or councillors could decide to suspend or ultimately wit draw the licence.

Last night as the Wigan Post went to press Obi, whose family secured asylum status after settling in Hindley, following a period living in the Manchester area, was unavailable for comment.

But when the eaterie was launched the 23-year-old said: “It’s something different for Wigan, something new,

“We aim to bring everyone from all cultures to D’Empire to have a good time and enjoy some good food.”

The Wallgate premises, located next to Little Fifteens, were previously known as Cafe Vogue, and used to host gatherings for Wigan Central Soul Club.