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Enforcement: ‘Industrial’ food prep in Notting Hill flat was more than a ‘hobby’

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A London restaurateur who was once on Interpol’s most-wanted list has failed to overturn an enforcement notice alleging that the flat above his Notting Hill restaurant was being used to prepare food.

LOCATIONNotting Hill
AUTHORITYKensington & Chelsea Council
INSPECTORChris Preston
PROCEDUREWritten submissions
DECISIONNotice upheld

The enforcement notice concerned a residential flat in Notting Hill above a restaurant called 108 Garage, which was opened in 2017 by the appellant, Luca Longobardi.

Longobardi left Italy for New York aged 21, starting his career as a kitchen porter before become a successful Wall Street banker. Over the next 20 years he launched his own investment bank in Brazil. However, an accusation that he was laundering money for the New York mafia saw him added to Interpol's most-wanted list.

He was arrested and spent a month in a South American prison, before being released and exonerated of any wrongdoing. He then relocated to London and opened 108 Garage in partnership with a Michelin-starred chef who he met on the website Gumtree. He has written a book about his experiences that is expected to be made into a film.

The restaurant became popular, and Longobardi announced plans to open a second eatery. In March 2018, however, the council issued an enforcement notice alleging that the flat above was being used for food preparation and storage ancillary to the restaurant, which it said constituted a material change of use.

The appellant argued that he sometimes used the kitchen area of the flat to “practice cooking with new ingredients”. He called his activities a “hobby use” and not an extension of the restaurant below.

However, the council’s evidence “cast substantial doubt” on this claim. On their visit to the site, the council’s enforcement officers observed “various people working on food preparation”. 

They also saw shelves storing “large quantities of non-perishable food and drink”, two large fridges and a chest freezer, industrial-sized food mixers, large quantities of cooking oil and “more plates and bowls than could ever be needed by the occupants of a single-bedroom flat”.

There was also “no domestic furniture visible” in the flat, and “no room for a bed” among the cooking equipment. On this basis, inspector Chris Preston had “little doubt that a change of use had occurred”.

Turning to whether planning permission should be granted, Preston noted that the change of use had resulted in the loss of a one-bedroom flat, contrary to local policy intended to protect the area’s housing stock.

He also cited concerns over noise, noting that because there was no direct access between the restaurant and the flat, staff carrying food and equipment up and down the external staircase would be likely to disrupt neighbours.

The appellant suggested as an alternative that the bedroom could be subdivided to provide a dry-store for the restaurant as well as living space. Preston was not persuaded, noting that “what is already a small bedroom would become pitifully cramped”.

In his conclusion, Preston accepted that the need for storage had likely arisen from the success of the restaurant. However, he found no evidence that the business would be forced to close if the unauthorised use of the flat was discontinued. On this basis he dismissed the appeal and upheld the enforcement notice.

The inspector’s report – case reference 3200615 – can be read here.

Image credit | iStock