A POPULAR Huddersfield restaurant stocked counterfeit vodka containing chloroform.
Police seized dozens of Smirnoff bottles from Grappolo in Lockwood earlier this year.
Now Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court has been told that the vodka contained chloroform and isopropanol.
According to West Yorkshire Trading Standards: “Vodka must have a minimum alcoholic strength of 37.5% volume and be exclusively derived from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin obtained following fermentation with yeast.
“The presence of isopropanol and chloroform demonstrates that this is not the case.”
The report added that the liquid found in the bottles “is industrial alcohol diluted with tap water.”
Magistrates decided to ban Grappolo from selling alcohol for four weeks as punishment.
Hamid Reza Mehrgan, who owns the Water Street restaurant, told the Examiner yesterday he didn’t accept the vodka was fake.
“I’ve always disputed the results and I still dispute them,” he said.
“We are one of the restaurants that observes every rule and regulation. I’ve done everything by the book.
“We’ve made a lot of enemies because we are THE restaurant in Huddersfield.”
The month-long drink sales ban will begin in three weeks’ time – unless Mr Mehrgan appeals.
“I will decide whether to appeal or to operate without selling alcohol for four weeks,” he said.
“If my customers have to bring their own drinks then we will provide ice and we won’t charge for corkage.
“People come to Grappolo for the food, the service and the ambience – not to have a wine or a beer.”
Police visited the Italian restaurant on January 26, discovering 36 bottles of Smirnoff.
A sample was sent to West Yorkshire Trading Standards for analysis.
But police didn’t receive the results until the morning of April 7 – just hours before a hearing in front of Kirklees Council’s Licensing Panel.
Grappolo’s barrister John Cordingley argued that the test results shouldn’t be shown to councillors at the meeting.
He told the three-strong panel at the time: “I think it’s below the belt to seek to introduce evidence that apparently could have been made available at an earlier date.”
The councillors decided not to look at the test results before reaching their decision. The panel then banned Grappolo from selling alcohol for three months.
Mr Mehrgan’s appeal was heard at Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
In their ruling, magistrates said they were “satisfied” the test results related to the vodka seized from Grappolo on January 26.
They added that Mr Mehrgan had “purchased seven cases of vodka from an unknown person for which he paid cash and did not take a receipt or other contact details.”
However, the court reduced Grappolo’s drinks ban from three months to four weeks after “taking into account that Mr Mehrgan is a man of hitherto good character.”
WEST Yorkshire Trading Standards spokesman David Lodge said last night: “The problem of fake vodka has been around for a long time but the number of cases is growing.
“There’s a danger that drinking counterfeit alcohol, particularly vodka, can cause blindness.
“Sometimes fake vodka comes in a bottle that looks like a brand of Polish or Russian vodka which you may not have heard of.
“If you don’t recognise the brand name, or the drink seems ridiculously cheap, then treat it with suspicion.
“If you have any suspicions at all, don’t consume the liquid. You can report the matter to Trading Standards on 08454 04 05 06.”
Isopropanol is a colourless, flammable liquid
The substance is used as an industrial solvent. Isopropanol can also be mixed with water to form rubbing alcohol for medical use
Chloroform is a colourless liquid with a sweet smell
It was used as an anaesthetic in the early days of surgery before being replaced by the safer alternative of ether
Chloroform can cause skin irritation and organ damage if swallowed
Five men were killed by an explosion in the Lincolnshire town of Boston earlier this month. The blast is believed to have happened at an illegal vodka distillery
Fake alcohol is a serious problem in Eastern Europe and is believed to be responsible for the deaths of more than 100 Russians every day