A RESTAURANT boss must pay more than £7,000 after magistrates heard a catalogue of fire hazards at his business.

People sleeping in the nine rooms immediately above the Mr Happy food outlet in Blossom Street risked death or serious injury for two years, said Karen Galloway, prosecuting.

The internal staircase to the two floors above the 20-seat Chinese restaurant and takeaway was blocked and couldn’t be used, an external staircase into a nearby alleyway had flammable objects and obstacles at its foot, the building’s fire alarm and fire detectors didn’t work and its fire extinguisher probably didn’t work because it hadn’t been serviced for five years, the court heard.

“If there had been a fire in these premises, the occupants would have been at risk of death or serious injury,” said Ms Galloway.

Fire officers served a prohibition notice banning the use of the rooms for accommodation after they discovered the fire safety problems during a routine inspection in May 2017.

But in December, immigration officers found a Romanian restaurant employee living in one of the rooms.

Kheng Koay, 42, of St Philip's Grove, Clifton, pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of employees and non-employees from May 13, 2015, to May 13, 2017, failure to carry out a fire risk assessment during the same period and failure to comply with a prohibition notice on December 7, 2017.

York magistrates fined him £5,000 and ordered him to pay the £1,989 prosecution costs of the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, plus a £170 statutory surcharge.

For Koay, Graham Parkin said he had improved fire safety within weeks of the fire officers’ visit.

He hadn’t appreciated his responsibilities regarding fire safety at the time, but did now.

The Romanian would have been homeless had he not slept above the restaurant, said Mr Parkin, and Koay and his family lived on the breadline because the business was £40,000 in debt, said Mr Parkin.

Ms Galloway said any fire would have spread “quite quickly” both through the upper floors and upwards in the building because the original rooms upstairs had been sub-divided into smaller rooms using plasterboard and wooden planks.

When interviewed by fire officers Koay admitted people including himself had slept in the rooms after May 2017.

They included new staff whom he didn’t want sleeping on the streets. Ms Galloway said in addition to the prohibition notice, officers served an enforcement notice after the routine visit in May 2017 which Koay had generally complied with.

But he still hadn’t done enough to make the upper stories safe to sleep in.