Pet rabbit in hotel kitchen, court told

A GREAT Yarmouth hotel kitchen had to be shut down after health inspectors found a rabbit living in a washing basket under filthy shelves, a court was told yesterday.

A GREAT Yarmouth hotel kitchen had to be shut down after health inspectors found a rabbit living in a washing basket under filthy shelves, a court was told yesterday.

During the routine inspection by environmental health inspectors, the pet rabbit was found to have urinated and defecated in the kitchen of the Fairholme Hotel.

After discovering that staff smoked in the kitchen and worked in filthy conditions, an emergency hygiene prohibition was issued by Yarmouth Borough Council to close the cooking area which catered for guests in 18 rooms and visitors.

The appalling conditions of the Fairholme Hotel in Princes Road were unearthed during the inspection in January 2007.

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Yesterday its owner, Countess Athanasia Constantine, started her trial at Yarmouth Magistrates' Court for 17 breaches of food hygiene regulations.

Kate Watts, one of the inspectors, told the court: “As I walked into the kitchen I saw people smoking. I also noticed some kind of droppings on the kitchen floor. Then out popped a white rabbit. There was an extreme smell of urine in the kitchens.

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“I could clearly see there was an imminent risk to public safety.

“They were not something we would come across on an everyday routine inspection.”

Colm Lyons, prosecuting on behalf of the council, said: “They (the inspectors) found food debris. They found filthy floors, walls and shelves.

“The public will latch on to the fact that there was a rabbit living in an upturned washing basket under some of the shelves.”

While Constantine admits the poor state of the kitchen, she denies the 17 breaches of food and hygiene regulations. She claims to have sub-let the hotel and that the new tenant landlord would have been responsible for running the kitchens.

However, the borough council claims that the 39-year-old made up the new landlord, Costa Pantazis, to try to evade prosecution.

Ms Watts told the court that the chef in the kitchen at the time of the inspection, Suzanna Bento, said that Constantine was the owner and she had worked for her for a year.

To dispute that claim, evidence was produced to show that at the time of the inspection, Mr Pantazis had been billed by Essex and Suffolk Water as the new landlord. But there was no personal detail about Mr Pantazis in the correspondence and the water company was only told in May 2008 that Constantine had signed a rental agreement with him covering January 2007.

Mr Lyons said: “When the defendant realised criminal consequences were to take place, an established attempt was made to avoid responsibility.”

In May 2007, a further inspection of the kitchen found that conditions had generally improved.

Constantine, of Mill Hill, London, has owned the Fairholme since February 2005.

The trial, presided over by Judge Philip Browning, continues today.

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