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Dhaka Tribune

What is the story behind the Horse & Horse raid?

The license was issued to sports organizer Shafiullah Al Munir, who took a corner of the restaurant to operate the bar

Update : 26 Sep 2020, 10:02 PM

The Horse and Horse restaurant in Gulshan, which was raided on Wednesday for selling liquor without permission, did have a license but issued against an establishment named Montpellier. 

The license was issued to sports organizer Shafiullah Al Munir, who took a corner of the restaurant to operate the bar.

Horse & Horse's owner Mehreen Mansur claimed they were planning to open the bar in two weeks, which had a cardboard sign saying Montpellier.  

According to her, the only legal problem was the lack of proper signage. 

A few months ago, Munir reached an agreement with owner of the restaurant, Mehreen Mansur, to operate a bar inside the restaurant. He had told the owner of the restaurant that the bar would help recover losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to people familiar with the business deal.

During the raid, the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) arrested two staff members of the restaurant. A case has been lodged with local police against Mehreen and restaurant staff.

Assistant Commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Gulshan Zone, Rafiqul Islam, said the Gulshan police station OC had notified him about a license being shown, but that the issuance of licenses is under the jurisdiction of the DNC.

“There may have been some errors. Maybe that is why the DNC raided the restaurant. They are in charge of the investigation,” he said.

Horse and Horse insiders said Munir had a valid license to import and sell liquor, which prompted them to share a corner of the premises in exchange for rent.

According to sources, the restaurant was only involved in catering food and had nothing to do with the liquor business.

“There may be some procedural errors which led to the raid,” one of them told Dhaka Tribune, before adding that charges should have been brought against Munir as well.

Mehreen: Raid to tarnish my image, business

Mehreen claimed she is facing charges and looking at arrest for operating a legal business which became “a bit too popular” and “emptied out older establishments.” 

In a video message, she said: “The raids came without any due warning. They [DNC] came with the intent to slander me.” 

Mehreen, who entered the hospitality industry three and half years ago, further said: “The agenda [of the raid] was to slander my image and tarnish my business to take customers back into their own hands.”

She blamed “syndicates of larger bars who have been running the game for a long time” for the raid. 

Describing Horse and Horse as a family establishment, Mehreen said: “It is for children, women, men, businessmen, politicians, students, mothers and grandmothers. I created an establishment for everyone; that was my mission.”

License to operate bar only valid for specific location

The DNC, however, says they conducted the raid based on intel regarding illegal liquor sales at the restaurant.

“The establishment was raided on a tip-off,” DNC Additional Director (Dhaka) Fazlur Rahman told Dhaka Tribune.

A license to operate a bar is issued against a specific location. A bar cannot be operated anywhere other than at the address mentioned in the license, said DNC officials.

The law states that liquor found anywhere other than at listed locations is considered illegal, they added.

“We have found a trade license against Horse and Horse to operate as a restaurant, but no documents to sell liquor,” said DNC senior official Fazlur.

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