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Owner of Abbey Spice, St Albans, 'won’t surrender' to suspected arson damage
Staff at an Indian restaurant in St Albans are determined that a suspected arson attack will not stop them from serving their loyal customers.
Abbey Spice, in Stanhope Road, was broken into in the early hours of Sunday morning.
After stealing cash and alcohol, the offender is believed to have started a fire in the restaurant’s bar.
Mohammed Mortuza, who has owned the restaurant for three years, said: "There was smoke everywhere. It is quite badly damaged.
"One side of the bar is completely burnt. "It used to be a lovely bright white restaurant but now it is all black.
"It’s not a welcoming situation at the moment."
Firefighters were called to the scene at about 2.45am and spent around two hours tackling the blaze.
Residents sleeping in the flats above the restaurant had to be evacuated and the homes were left with smoke damage.
Staff spent several hours cleaning up the mess on Sunday so that the restaurant could open that night.
Although they managed to serve for most of the shift, Mr Mortuza decided to close early.
However the restaurant was able to open as usual on Monday night.
Mr Mortuza said: "We’ve been working like dogs.
"I don’t want to upset my customers.
"It is very short notice so I don’t want to let them down.
"I won’t surrender to this situation."
The restaurant’s phone line was also destroyed by the blaze so staff are currently unable to accept card transactions.
Mr Mortuza is full of praise for the people who saved his business.
He said: "I have to thank my staff, neighbours and passing customers.
"People have been popping in and showing so much sympathy.
"I’m really thankful to the police. They were so supportive and they are doing a really good job.
"The fire brigade were also fantastic. It would have been a lot worse."
A 26-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life in connection with the incident.