Closure after rat infestation took its toll on chippy.
Byline: Robin Turner Reporter email@example.com
AFORMER CHIP shop owner said rats which gnawed his potatoes have left him so much in debt that he cannot even afford to make himself bankrupt. David Taylor, 43, of Gray's Inn Road, Aberystwyth, told Swansea Crown Court he was left with PS60,000 worth of debts after health inspectors found rats in his takeaway/restaurant business in the town's Eastgate and closed it down.
At Swansea Crown Court, Taylor admitted failing to safely store potatoes and failing to have adequate procedures to control pests.
Tom Scapens, prosecuting, said after a customer at the Chip Box 3 spotted a rat in November 2013, Ceredigion Council environmental health officials paid the premises a visit.
He said they found Daniel Smith and Chelsea Thomas working at the chip shop, Mr Smith being seen to scrape rat droppings into a dustpan with a brush.
Mr Scapens said rat paw marks and "tail swirls" were found in a grease tray in the cooking area, and rat droppings were found in customer areas, some of them being "wet". He added skirting boards in the premises were smeared by rats consistently running along them.
Mr Scapens told the court: "Droppings were found 10cm away from boxes which were being used to serve food to the public."
He added: "Mandy Gallagher, the manager, agreed to close down the chip shop immediately, saying she would telephone her boss, Mr Taylor."
Mr Scapens said Taylor had tried to seal up holes made by rats using pan scourers and expanding foam.
The court heard five visits were needed by health officials before the rats were gone, and the Chip Box 3 re-opened in February 2014.
However, a year later, said Janet Gedrich, defending Taylor, the defendant was forced to close the premises down due to growing debts, and handed over the lease to the landlord.
She said by the time he was forced to close the business, which was Taylor's first foray into running his own enterprise after an adult life spent working in the catering industry, he had run up debts of PS40,000.
Ms Gedrich said Taylor, a father of six, "could not afford to buy Christmas presents for his children last year".
She told the court Taylor now had debts of around PS60,000, and while he wanted to declare himself bankrupt, did not have enough funds to raise the fee necessary to apply for bankruptcy.
Ms Gedrich said: "He now works in a chip shop, not his own business, earning around PS200 a week."
Judge Peter Heywood gave Taylor a 150-hour unpaid work order and a 12-month community order and accepted the defendant did not have the means to pay a fine or contribute to the costs of the investigation.
Rat droppings found by environ-<Bmental health officers at Chip Box 3 when it was run by David Taylor in Aberystwyth. Below, rat footprints and tail swirls in a grease tray