WINE will flow at a posh Indian restaurant this weekend after Swansea councillors listened to the owner's plea of ignorance for selling booze with no licence in place.
A relieved Jitu Miah, the owner of Ice & Fire in SA1, was granted a temporary licence for Friday, Saturday and Sunday despite an objection from South Wales Police.
"We're looking forward to a sunny weekend," he told the Post.
Mr Miah is also applying for a full premises licence, which is due to be determined separately on July 12.
Yesterday's licensing sub-committee meeting heard that Mr Miah's tenancy for Ice & Fire began on January 1.
He began paying rent of £50,000 plus VAT per annum in March, and the restaurant opened on March 31. But Mr Miah, of Sketty, did not have a licence to sell alcohol — an offence pointed out by visiting police and council officers on May 14.
Police said they told Mr Miah to remove alcohol from display and to apply for temporary event notices to allow him to sell alcohol on specified days, pending a premises licence application.
When they returned there two days later they said alcohol was back on display. A month later, visiting officers claimed Mr Miah told them he had continually sold alcohol since opening up, despite long periods when he should not have.
Police licensing officer Nick Bailey told councillors that Mr Miah had shown "blatant disregard" for the rules.
Mr Miah, who was represented by barrister Ned Gill, disputed he had continually sold alcohol when he was not supposed to, but admitted to mistakes.
He said he had not re-stocked the alcohol that was spotted on May 16 but that he had run out of space to store it.
And he said he had four employees who could not work at the venue if alcohol was not for sale.
"My financial situation is very, very bad at the moment," said Mr Miah, of Gower Road. "I'm having problems sleeping."
Describing Ice & Fire, he said: "It's unique, it's formal — Swansea has not got something like this. The clientele is high standard. I don't want anybody hooded."
He also claimed, through his architect, that he had taken the lease for the premises on the understanding that it was a licensed premises.
Mr Bailey described Mr Miah as a "very astute gentleman" who had previously given assurances about following the rules, and questioned what was different this time.
Mr Miah promised he would take advice on board, and said: "I am only human."
Councillors approved the temporary event notice after discussions with senior council lawyer Lyndsay Thomas.
She said there was much debate.
"The evidence supports there has been a misunderstanding," she said. "The fault must lie with Mr Miah and he fully accepts that."
She said his breaches may be dealt with separately, and added: "Granting the temporary event notice does not mean there is a likelihood of an increase in crime and disorder."