Officers order a take away of KFC's licence

DRUG dealing and drunken youths brawling in a Camden Town fast food joint have led police to call for its closure at night

Ben McPartland

DRUG dealing and drunken youths brawling in a Camden Town fast food joint have led police to call for its closure at night.

Officers are fed up with dealing with the problems at KFC on the High Street and have compiled a case file of criminal incidents which includes a fight in November where a man was knifed.

Police are now using the information in a bid to get KFC's late-night licence revoked.

At the moment it opens until 2am at weekends, which is when the problems are worse.

Roy Walker, chairman of the Camden Town with Primrose Hill Safer Neighbourhoods Panel, said: "A number of people have noted that dealers congregate around KFC.

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"It is in the hands of the police but certainly I would hope they take action on it."

A town hall licensing panel will now decide next month whether KFC will be forced to close earlier.

Camden Town Labour councillor Pat Callaghan said: "If the police want to revoke the licence there is obviously some serious issues within the venue. We have to take action when we are asked to by the police. We have had so many problems in Camden and we have all worked hard to counter them and we don't want to slide backwards."

One woman, who asked not to be named but works at the Buck's Head pub opposite KFC, described the fast food outlet as "the most dangerous place in Camden".

Over recent months, police have frequently been called to deal with trouble inside and outside KFC.

They include:

o The restaurant being closed after a mass brawl outside involving customers.

o A man receiving head injuries after being hit with a bottle in a fight inside.

o Police observing a known drug dealer approaching customers inside without staff challenging him.

o Youths being caught smoking cannabis inside the restaurant.

o A police community support officer being assaulted inside by a drug dealer who was trying to escape.

Police are angry that KFC staff have not been dealing with the problems. But team leader Nadeem Ahmed said: "People behave like this everywhere. Even the police can't handle the youths.

"I have been here for a long time. These people who sell drugs come and go. One generation finishes and another comes along. So we took a little time to get to know them. It's nothing to do with KFC. They are all over Camden. We stop them because our boss is very strict now."

Desperate to remain open late, KFC bosses are trying to agree a list of conditions with police to stop their licence being taken away.

These include CCTV inside and outside the premises, staff training, a security guard at night and an incident log on site.

In a letter to police, KFC licence holder Javed Hussain said: "We are absolutely on the hot pursuit of these culprits and keep pushing away anyone standing outside our premises or within without a valid reason and are sure that your team must have noticed a big difference."

He added that KFC was considering applying to open even later until 4am to cover the cost of a security guard.

A council report into the licensing review reveals that on one visit at Christmas when officers arrived to discuss the issues, Mr Hussain tried to give them Cadbury's Roses chocolates and a bottle of whisky.

Officers declined the gifts for reasons of professional integrity.