Rita Ora birthday party was egregious and notorious lockdown breach, say police
Rita Ora’s 30th birthday party in a restaurant was an “egregious and notorious” breach of lockdown rules, according to the police.
The pop star has previously apologised for her “spur of the moment” decision to throw the celebration, which broke Covid rules, on November 28 last year.
At a Kensington and Chelsea Council licensing sub-committee hearing on Thursday, the Metropolitan Police urged the local authority to revoke the licence of the west London restaurant where the party was held.
The hearing was told that Ora’s party had initially been scheduled to take place at the home of one of her friends, but the plans were hastily rearranged after paparazzi turned up outside before the event began.
Charles Holland, a lawyer representing the police, said: “The incident on the night was one of the most egregious, and certainly the most notorious, breaches of the regulations committed on licensed premises.”
He added that Ora “selfishly wished to flout the lockdown” by seeking to pay for access to the Casa Cruz restaurant in Clarendon Road.
Mr Holland added that the council should send a “strong and clear message to the hospitality trade and to the wider public” about rule breaches of this kind.
A deterrent needs to be sent “locally and nationally”, he said.
Gary Grant, representing the restaurant, told the committee that plans to host the party at Casa Cruz were made at the last minute after photographers turned up outside a home where it had been originally been due to take place.
“This was going to be a dining-at-home experience in a very close associate of Ms Ora’s and my client… was doing the catering for it, for home.
“The paparazzi turned up outside the home where the party was going to take place.
“There was a panicked phone call in the afternoon, I believe, of the 28th from a close associate of Ms Ora.”
He added that they asked “in desperation” if the party could be held at the restaurant and they agreed.
Pc Ian Davis, of the Metropolitan Police, also urged the committee to revoke the restaurant’s licence.
“These are unprecedented times, with the continued loss of life, sickness, various sacrifices and economic hardship that this country is facing,” he said.
“On a daily basis grim milestones are being met in relation to this pandemic.
“A clear message to the hospitality industry in their vicarious responsibilities needs to be met in relation to premises who risk operating during these national lockdowns to deter and discourage the public from organising such events as no-one is above the law and all will be held accountable.”
He added that police officers are risking their safety and that of their families by responding to coronavirus breaches.
Scott Bhattarai, who is described in council documents as the general manager of the restaurant at the time of the party, previously gave a statement to police on December 1 and said he had allowed the premises to be used.
According to the documents previously released by the council, he said Ora’s representatives called him on his personal mobile phone at about 5.30pm on the day of the party and told him they wanted to use the venue for “drinks and nibbles”.
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Mr Bhattarai said the representatives offered £5,000 and that most staff were on furlough so he went to Casa Cruz to “facilitate the event”.
He subsequently apologised in his witness statement for being “greedy”.
The group arrived at 7pm with seven or eight guests, he said, though by 9pm there were about 17 people, he told police.
They included model Cara Delevingne and her sister Poppy, according to police.
Mr Bhattarai told officers that “security for the entourage” wanted no footage of them arriving so he turned the CCTV off between 6pm and 6.30pm.
Mr Bhattarai has since been sacked by the restaurant, the committee was told.
However Mr Grant refused to say whether he is still employed at a sister restaurant to Casa Cruz, citing legal issues in a criminal investigation and employment case resulting from the party and the sacking.
The £5,000 fee for the use of the restaurant was never paid to Mr Bhattarai by Ora or any of her associates, he said.
He added that Nicholas Fallows, director of the restaurant, did not know the party was taking place and the agreement to host it was struck solely with Mr Bhattarai.
Mr Fallows told the hearing: “We put a lot of faith in a member of staff who was highly qualified and unfortunately that trust was breached.”
During the hearing, Mr Holland and Pc Davis were asked about penalties handed to party guests and the officer said that, while four people were reported for coronavirus rule breaches, he could not disclose details about any fines that may have been issued.
The committee will announce its decision on Casa Cruz’s licensing review at a later date.
Ora declined to comment on the hearing; however, in her apology at the time that news of her party broke she previously said: “I feel particularly embarrassed knowing first-hand how hard people have worked to combat this terrible illness and being fully aware of the sacrifices that people and businesses have made to help keep us all safe.
“Even though this won’t make it right, I want to sincerely apologise.”
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