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