Troubled restaurant stays open... for now

China House on Aqueduct Street
China House on Aqueduct Street
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A Chinese restaurant remains open for business despite being stripped of its licence after leaking gas and botched electrical wiring turned the premises into a ticking timebomb.

The China House in Aqueduct Street would have been destroyed along with dozens of neighbouring houses had a spark ignited fumes in the cellar, according to fire experts.

China House on Aqueduct Street

China House on Aqueduct Street

They said a gas blast would probably have caused fatalities and shut down the nearby West Coast mainline, costing millions in rail disruption.

The restaurant, formerly the Lime Kiln pub, was branded a death trap and had its licence revoked at the end of a marathon nine-hour council hearing at the Town Hall on Wednesday.

But on Thursday night The China House was open for business as usual.

And when the Evening Post visited the restaurant, its owner Wen Qiang Cai said he would be trading as normal until the outcome of an appeal.

He said: “My lawyers have given me 21 days until we go to court, when we may be closed or stay open.

“For now it’s no problem.”

At the hearing, councillors heard police, fire and environmental health officers had battled for five years to get the China House to tackle a catalogue of safety issues.

It was described as “the most problematic” of all Preston’s 450 licensed premises by police who brought the action. The case was only the second time in 10 years the fire authority had supported the revocation of a licence.

Fire safety officer Michael Walker said: “These premises have created an inordinate amount of problems for us since 2009.

“This has been a rollercoaster ride of mismanagement of fire safety. It is one of the worst examples I have ever seen of flagrant disregard of legislation, bordering on extremely dangerous. We believe that this company has been putting profit before safety.”

However, husband and wife management pair Wen Qiang Cai and Yun Qin Weng argued the restaurant had now addressed all the safety issues and should be allowed to keep its licence.

A Preston Council spokesman said: “The owners of the China House had their licence revoked by the committee, however, a notice was being typed yesterday and sent to them.

“Once they receive that notice they have 21 days to appeal, during which time they can still trade.

“If they don’t appeal then they need to close. If they do appeal a date will be set at the magistrates court and until that date they can still trade.”