Signature Living hotel fined for food safety breaches

The operator of Liverpool’s 30 James Street Hotel has today been ordered to pay a £60,000 penalty after pleading guilty to four breaches of food safety and hygiene regulations in Liverpool Crown Court.

A £34,000 fine (plus £26,877 in costs) results from inspections made in March and September 2018 by Liverpool City Council’s environmental health team, who found the kitchens were filthy and infested with mice – including dead ones.

Three of the four breaches were counted as concurrent and the overall fine was reduced by 50% due to the mitigating factor of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which has forced the closure of all hotels.

In his summing up Judge Byrne was severely critical of the management’s mishandling of the issue, in systemically failing to oversee and implement the company’s own food safety and hygiene policies.

The judge also made it clear he recognised the serious nature of the offences, the poor condition of the hotel and the poor conduct of senior management at the hotel who had attempted to divert blame from themselves in ignoring concerns raised by staff. 

He said: “This was a failure by the hotel’s senior management who largely ignored concerns raised by others and failed to take action. The hotel owners should have ensured hygiene standards were met and unfairly attributed blame on others, including the ex-Head Chef and other neighbouring businesses.”

The hotel is owned by Signature Living Hotel Ltd which is the ‘parent company’ of 30 James St Ltd. Signature Living Hotel Ltd is controlled by Mr Lawrence Kenwright, who is also a director of 30 James Street Ltd.

30 James St Ltd was sentenced after entering a guilty plea. The company had previously pleaded not guilty to hygiene offences at an earlier hearing at Liverpool Crown Court in May 2019.

The March 2018 inspection was prompted by a complaint made by a member of the public which resulted in an unannounced food hygiene inspection

The hotel is a popular venue for weddings and functions and has two kitchens; Grand Hall Kitchen on the ground floor and the Carpathia kitchen on the 8th floor.

During the inspection, dead mice were found behind cooking equipment in the hotel’s Grand Hall Kitchen and mouse droppings were found on food preparation surfaces next to catering equipment and crockery.

In the Carpathia kitchen, officers found mouse droppings inside frying pans next to the cooker. In both kitchens mouse droppings were found on floor surfaces under cooking equipment and fridge/freezers. Kitchens were unclean with a build-up of food debris and grease which provided a food source for pests. There were gaps and holes in the wall, floor and ceiling surfaces which provided rodents with access/entry points.

Conditions were so grave that the kitchens were shut down because they presented an “imminent risk to health”. After the hotel carried out remedial works officers revisited a week later and agreed that kitchens could reopen.

The court heard that rodents had been active in the hotel more or less continuously since January 2016. Pest reports revealed that the hotel’s pest contractor frequently made recommendations to the hotel management, such as regular ‘deep cleaning’, storing food in sealed containers, and filling internal holes. A report in January 2018 contained 26 recommendations, and on 28 February 2018, the Hotel was advised “Both kitchens need a deep clean and food removed from floor areas”.

A further unannounced food hygiene inspection was carried out on 18 September 2018 during which officers again found mouse droppings in a storeroom within the Carpathia kitchen and on the floor of the basement storage area.

30 James Street Hotel currently holds a ‘3’ (satisfactory) food hygiene rating following the most recent inspection by the City Council in August 2019.

Liverpool City Council Public Protection Division operates the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. The public can check the food hygiene rating of most food business in Liverpool by visiting www.food.gov.uk/ratings

Councillor Sharon Connor, Cabinet Member for Highways and City Services, said: “The scene that our Environmental health officers found at 30 James St Hotel in March 2018 was disgusting and shocking – and not what anyone would expect to find in a prime city centre establishment like this.

“Public safety is of paramount importance and to hear that the owners of the hotel were repeatedly told by their own pest contractor and staff that there was a problem, and to compound that by not acting on recommendations to remedy it, is extremely disappointing.

“The level of the fine for Signature Living, albeit reduced because of the impact of Covid, reflects the seriousness of the charge and threat to the public’s health. I hope this fine will ensure that when the hotel re-opens their food hygiene standards are of the highest possible standard.

“I’d like to congratulate our environmental health team on their hard work and persistence, and hope this reassures residents and visitors that we will not tolerate the actions of organisations that put public health at risk.”