A WINCHESTER restaurateur who flouted several fire safety warnings has been ordered to do 100 hours community payback.

Kumar Lama, 43, admitted breaking four fire prohibition notices over the use of first and second floor space above his Gurkha Chef restaurant in City Road.

Inspectors had visited the premises in September 2012 and were unhappy about safety including the lack of fire risk assessment and that Mr Lama did not know who to operate the alarm. The notice required nobody to go to the top two floors except to collect belongings or use the toilet.

The offences occurred when fire officers revisited on October 3 2012, October 25 2012, June 21 2013 and June 28 2013, Winchester Crown Court heard.

Hannah Eales, prosecuting for the fire service, said there was evidence the space was being used by staff to live and sleep in.

Tom Evans, mitigating, said Lama was from Nepal and was granted political asylum in the UK in 2003. He was a man of previous good character and a prominent member of the local Nepali community.

He said Lama bought the lease of the Gurkha Chef in 2011. “He did not have an idea of what he was getting himself into. He had not taken any steps to see what regulatory restrictions were imposed on him.”

He shut the restaurant for six months and spent £60,000 on renovations, said Mr Evans, adding the closure cost an estimated £120,000.

Lama, of Jewry Street, had since sold the business, now called Lali Gurans. Lama was now working there two days a week as a waiter earning £100 a week. He was £60,000 in debt, said Mr Evans.

Sentencing yesterday, the Recorder of Winchester Judge Keith Cutler imposed the community order and told Lama to pay £2,000 towards the £2,800 prosecution costs and a £60 community surcharge. The judge said: “I think it is important that the lesson be learned. These are regulations to protect the public.”

After the case, assistant chief officer Neil Odin, head of community safety, said: “We work closely with businesses to help them with their duty to comply with fire safety law, ensuring the safety of our community and making Hampshire safer, but where their responsibilities are not taken seriously, the service will always consider prosecution.”