Ex-owner of eatery Flicks pleads guilty to hygiene breaches

Belfast restaurant shut in 2012 two days after first cases of suspected food poisoning, court told

A leading Belfast cinema and former restaurant owner who once rejected suggestions his eatery was responsible for an outbreak of E.coli food poisoning, has pleaded guilty to a total of 11 food hygiene breaches.

As the charges were put to Yorkgate Movie House boss Michael McAdam, as an owner of the former Flicks Restaurant, he replied: “We plead guilty”.

In August 2012, when Flicks first came under investigation, Mr McAdam claimed hygiene in his kitchen met the highest standards.

“All of our books and health checks are up to date, staff training is all up to date. We have followed every rule and regulation. We take our job seriously and where this came from I have no idea,” he said.

“In October 2012, Flicks’ doors voluntarily closed for the last time two days after the first cases of suspected food poisoning emerged.

“In the coming days it was declared a “major public health crisis”, later described as the worst outbreak of E.coli in Northern Ireland’s history, with over 150 suspected cases.”

Nora Largy told Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday the case against Movie House Cinema Yorkgate Ltd was being brought by the Belfast City Council environmental health and food safety department, and asked that the company be arraigned on the charges.

Mr McAdam, as “a duly appointed representative” for Movie House, stepped forward to plead to the charges, which not only predate the first suspected outbreak of food poisoning in August 2012, but also covered the period up to October 12th that year, after Flicks had voluntarily shut its doors.

The charges included failure to supervise, instruct or train staff in food hygiene; inadequate training for food hygiene procedures; failure to protect foods from E.coli contamination; failures to identify hazards, or to record or monitor them; no cleaning or drying facilities for staff, or even soap in a blocked wash hand basin; and one charge of failing to keep chopped Parsley at the proper temperature to prevent pathogenic micro-organisms or formation of toxins.

Adjourning the case until next month, Judge Gordon Kerr QC asked defence lawyer Stuart Spence for an up-to-date report on the company as the court would be considering a financial penalty in such a case.