A HAMPSHIRE restaurant has been allowed to keep its alcohol licence - despite breaking lockdown laws by selling beer to takeaway customers.

District councillors were told that India Cottage in Christchurch Road, Ringwood, would close with the loss of several jobs if they sided with Hampshire police and revoked its drinks licence.

Members of the licensing sub-committee issued the restaurant with a formal warning but decided to take no further action.

A report to the committee said the business, run by Shad Mannan, was visited by police a month into the lockdown.

It added: "As the officers entered the premises they witnessed two male customers with glasses of beer in front of them. Mr Mannan confirmed the customers were waiting in the outside seating area for a takeaway meal and had asked for a drink whilst waiting, which he had provided."

The report said regulations which came into force in March required all restaurants and bars to stop selling food and drink for consumption on the premises.

It added: "During this pandemic and emergency situation, the legislation and current licence prevents India Cottage from selling alcohol for consumption on or off the premises."

PC Brian Swallow, one of the two officers who visited the restaurant, said he was "amazed" at what he saw.

But solicitor Philip Day, representing Mr Mannan, said the restaurant would cease to be a viable business if its alcohol licence was taken away.

He added: "Staff will certainly be at risk of losing their jobs and, with the greatest of respect, that will be a disproportionate response (from the council).”

Councillors said they considered imposing a temporary or permanent ban on the sale of alcohol but were "mindful" of the restaurant's previous good history and the fact that no breaches took place after it was served with a prohibition notice.

After the hearing a restaurant spokesperson said Mr Mannan acknowledged he had made a serious mistake.

They added: "He has heeded the warnings that he has been given and can give a categorical assurance nothing of a similar nature will happen again."