No hygiene and no pay: Former Tiago staff speak out on shuttered Lincoln restaurant

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Dismayed former staff at the Tiago Brazilian restaurant in Lincoln have spoken out about a complete lack of hygiene practices at the business.

Meat wrapped in cling film and reused the next day after being stored in bottle fridges, no money to buy cleaning supplies, and no hot water or heating are just some of the claims they made to The Lincolnite.

The former staff members, who wished to remain anonymous so their current employment is not affected, also claimed employees were owed more than £10,000 for their work, with several leaving the company over lack of pay.

The restaurant denied all the stories from former staff.

Poor hygiene and working conditions

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Former staff at the Brazilian restaurant contacted The Lincolnite to explain some of the conditions they had to put up with.

Here is a summary of their claims:

  • meat was wrapped in cling film and reused the next day, and any leftovers then went into the stew
  • at one point, meat was stuffed in the night club’s old bottle fridges, which leaked onto the floor
  • no formal staff hygiene training, no fire safety structure and not even pest control
  • no money to buy cleaning products and staff had to borrow items from the night club
  • several staff are owed more than £10,000 pounds collectively, and some never received a pay slip
  • after chefs left the venue because of no pay, waiting staff had to grill meat themselves

Asked to sum their experience at Tiago, one former staff member said: 

“Hard. I missed every rent payment. Was spoken to like dirt and worked so many hours with little time off. I feel ashamed I worked there and won’t be putting it on my CV.”

One restaurant, multiple companies

Tiago opened in October 2016 in what used to be Brewhaus inside the Tokyo night club, now called Circle.

The Brazilian restaurant was first inspected on Jan 24, 2017 and received a 4/5 star hygiene rating.

The company inspected was called Access Commercial Investors 2 Ltd, incorporated in March 2016 and renamed as Norwich Bars Ltd on July 10, 2017. The company director as of December 2016 is Emily Weir, after Ian Earp resigned in June 2016, and Ali Keyhani resigned in December 2016, two months after Tiago opened.

After they received a complaint, City of Lincoln Council hygiene inspectors paid Tiago a second visit in December 15 2017, when they rated the restaurant 1/5 stars, the lowest score they can give before completely shutting down the business.

It appears Tiago staff were aware of the impending inspection. A source told The Lincolnite several staff worked overnight to try and improve the standards before the second inspection, but the lack of investment in the infrastructure meant that it was not possible to meet the required standards.

However, in the second visit, the company inspected was Blackthorn Restaurants Ltd, a firm only formed on August 25, 2017.

The director of the company is listed at Chris Hilditch, born in December 1973. The same person is also a director of Sol City Ltd, a company formed just a day before Blackthorn and registered at the same address.

The poor hygiene score became public in late January 2018, when The Lincolnite first reported the story. Tiago did not respond to repeated queries from The Lincolnite journalists, before and after publication.

Then two weeks later, Tiago claimed The Lincolnite’s report directly led to their immediate closure.

Mounting problems and bad reviews

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

In their closing statement on Facebook, Tiago staff Paul Gourlay claimed that: “One of the major issues we had on the [inspection] day was that the hot water boiler had broken, we were not open at the time and did not reopen until it was fixed, however this weighed heavily in the marking.”

However, several people pointed out that there was no hot water or heating during their visit at the venue on December 11, four days before the hygiene inspection.

Joanne Smith said: “We went on the 11th [December]. It was freezing cold, no heating, cold water in toilets, barely any salad. They clearly did not want to bring very much meat out. What I did eat I threw up the next morning. I would never recommend or go again, so not at all surprised it’s closing.”

Several recent reviews on Tiago’s Facebook and Trip Advisor page mirror Joanne’s experience and did not recommend the venue.

A former staff member also commented on this issue: “Oh and this ‘broken boiler’ — you mean the owner didn’t want to pay for hot water.”

Another TripAdvisor review from two weeks ago said: “The food was tepid and not hot enough to inhibit bacteria growth. Very worrying indeed! I passed on the chicken for this very reason!

“We thought the food issue was probably due to us being late in the restaurant, however, we soon found out it did not matter when we ate, the food was a poor standard at all times, the food was so poor we hardly ate anything.”

Charles Hewitt, now the former manager at Tiago, told The Lincolnite in a Facebook message: “This information is totally inaccurate.

“All the current staff were paid yesterday. Then we closed the business. The staff work two weeks in hand so there is one week left.

“We had to call the police yesterday due to two ex-employees being drunk and making a nuisance of themselves while we were trying to explain the situation to the staff.”