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Bosses of Maidstone Indian restaurant Tandoor Mahal speak out after cockroach infestation causes closure

An environmental health inspector uncovered a cockroach infestation at an Indian restaurant after spotting one of the bugs crawling up the manager's tie.

Tandoor Mahal in Maidstone, which was placed in to liquidation last month, closed last week after the council intervened.

Brothers Shalim and Shiper Karim
Brothers Shalim and Shiper Karim

Restaurant bosses have denied doing anything wrong, but admit lessons have been learnt from the fiasco.

Despite their financial situation, owner Shiper Karim and his brother Shalim Karim, who is the manager, are spending between £15,000 and £20,000 on renovating the building, in Medway Street, which they have borrowed from friends and family, to ensure all the bugs have gone.

They are hoping to reopen next weekend.

The brothers believe the German cockroaches got into the building in a fruit and vegetable delivery, which had come from Europe.

Medway Magistrates' Court, which granted a hygiene emergency prohibition notice this week, heard that when food and safety officers arrived to serve the notice, one officer left with a bag of the bugs.

The brothers played down the number of pests, however, claiming they were only aware of several in the building.

After discovering the cockroaches Shiper, 53, and Kalim, 50, called pest control on December 3.

Restaurant manager Shalim Karim points to where the cockroaches lived in the kitchen
Restaurant manager Shalim Karim points to where the cockroaches lived in the kitchen

"They said there were one or two and they will control them. If pest control had advised me to close the place I would have done it," said Shiper, who's father started the business in 1974.

During a routine inspection on February 3, a council officer noticed a bug hanging from Shalim's tie. The siblings were then told to get pest control in again and make some changes to the kitchen floor to stop the bugs getting through.

Only three days later, two officials arrived while diners were eating their meals, and served the emergency notice.

The closure of the business is taking a financial and emotional toll on both.

Shalim said: "The amount of money we are losing is unbearable. You can't comprehend the pain and struggle we have gone through. In all these years nobody has every complained of food poisoning. Okay they found a couple of cockroaches but we were doing everything they were asking."

Shiper Karim, owner, and Shalim, manager, stand in their kitchen where the cockroaches lived and which is being extensively renovated
Shiper Karim, owner, and Shalim, manager, stand in their kitchen where the cockroaches lived and which is being extensively renovated

Shiper is unfazed by the restaurant being placed in liquidation and plans on repaying his debts, which he says "aren't much", to his suppliers.

A business enters liquidation when it cannot pay its obligations on time.

Companies House shows that the business last filed their accounts in 2017.

A restaurant-wide renovation is now under way at the Tandoor Mahal, with extensive work on the kitchen, including re-tiling the kitchen floor and electrical work.

"We are taking no risks, I want to have the cleanest kitchen in Kent," Shiper said.

There are restaurant-wide renovations going on at the Tandoor Mahal
There are restaurant-wide renovations going on at the Tandoor Mahal

He admits to still serving food while knowing about the bugs, but says he has nothing to be sorry for. He did apologise however, to customers who had their bookings cancelled.

"We will be more careful than before. We will make sure it doesn't happen again," Shalim said.

The emergency order will remain in place until environmental health officers are satisfied sufficient changes have been made to remove any imminent health risks.

Depending on the council's verdict, the brothers hope the restaurant they have both worked at since teenagers will reopen imminently.

The eatery and Shalim were ordered to pay £1,300 to Maidstone Borough Council, for the health officers' time and legal costs, during the court hearing on Tuesday.

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