Rita Ora: Venue was paid to breach Covid rules, police tell committee
Pop star Rita Ora celebrated her 30th birthday breaking lockdown rules. Her team offered a restaurant £5,000 to break rules so she could celebrate, according to police.
Her security team also asked for CCTV cameras to be turned off during the party at Casa Cruz, in Notting Hill, on 28 November, during the second national lockdown, police said.
CCTV hard drives were wiped two days later, a licensing hearing at Kensington and Chelsea Council heard.
Rita Ora declined to comment but has previously apologised for the party.
She flew to Egypt for a private performance on 21 November. On her return the following day, she should have isolated for two weeks.
Instead, she threw a birthday party in London, which violated coronavirus rules that prevented households from mixing indoors.
Ms Ora has said she “deserved criticism” for her actions and would donate her fee from the concert to charity. Her team declined to comment about the latest revelations which emerged during a licence review for the restaurants heard by Kensington and Chelsea Council.
The general manager at Casa Cruz, Scottie Bhattarai, told police he was contacted by a representative of Ms Ora on the day of the party, the council’s licensing committee heard.
Charles Holland, representing the Met Police, told the committee hearing that Mr Bhattarai admitted he had been “contacted by Ms Ora’s representatives and offered £5,000 for the use of the premises that evening”.
In a statement to police, Mr Bhattarai said he had accepted the offer “because he was greedy”.
Mr Bhattarai was “fully aware the event breached coronavirus regulations”, Mr Holland told the committee hearing.
Mr Bhattarai said he began admitting guests at about 19:00 GMT. Between 15 and 20 people were at the venue at the party’s peak, at about 21.00, he said.
Mr Holland said officers arrived at the venue after 21:10 but “were not afforded access”.
Police said they found that Casa Cruz’s CCTV hard drives were blank two days later, with no footage available from the previous month. Officers say the devices had either been reformatted or the hard-drives had been replaced.
The venue is accused of breaching licensing rules by not allowing police into the premises and failing to provide them with CCTV footage.
It is alleged that the restaurant locked fire doors during the party, a breach of health and safety regulations.
The licensing committee is considering whether to revoke the licence of the restaurant.
Mr Bhattarai is also subject to a criminal investigation, while four party-goers were issued fines at the time. Their identities have not been revealed.
Casa Cruz has fired Mr Bharrati following the revelations.
The restaurant’s parent company said it was upgrading the CCTV system so footage can not be tampered with in future, the committee heard.
Forty-four written submissions were made by local residents in support of Casa Cruz keeping its licence.
A decision will be made at a later date.
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