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The restaurant owner says he did not “hide” the food hygiene rating behind the plants

A restaurant owner who was fined for allegedly covering up a food hygiene rating with plants has said the resulting court case almost destroyed his business. Carl Gough, owner of The Muddy Toad in Pontypool, was prosecuted by Torfaen County Council for failing to clearly display a 1 rating in the venue’s window last summer, just months after taking over the business and beginning to transform . its image in an informal refined restaurant.

Gough claims he did not deliberately hide the rating with the plants and that he had “every intention” of paying the £200 fine but did not pay it because the business was struggling financially and needed to ” prioritize paying staff and bills.”




He explained how the initial rating, which was changed to four after a reassessment a few weeks after the single ranking was issued, crippled the restaurant to such an extent that for weeks very few customers turned up. He claims it continues to have a devastating effect on his business, from which he believes the restaurant cannot recover.

However, Torfaen council said they take food safety “extremely seriously” and all businesses have a legal obligation to display their food hygiene scores, reports Wales Online.

“Unfortunately, because of this rating we were completely boycotted. After a few weeks, we had a fully staffed restaurant with no customers. It would be bad for any business, but especially for a new business trying to find its feet. “

He expressed regret for not paying the fine at the time, but insists “the whole thing was unfair”. “The situation arose because the original rating was issued due to a personality clash between our head chef at the time and the council inspector,” Carl explained of the inspection which took place last June.

“It led to an on-site brawl and the board issued a notice of no confidence in management, resulting in an immediate one-star rating. In our feedback, the board strongly suggested that we fire that member of staff and we acted on that immediately. .”

“We begged them to reassess as soon as possible and they came in August and said they were impressed with the changes we had made and gave us a four. We were happy it seemed to be over but he returned a few days later with our new four star rating in one hand and a £200 fine in the other We covered the old rating. In hindsight, the plant may have slightly overhung it, but it certainly wasn’t intentional, and it was clearly visible to people close enough to the building that you might not have seen it. There would have been no point in covering it up to explain what happened. In any case, the assessment was not accurate at that stage, so I felt the fine was really harsh and unfair.”

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