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Old Street nightclub loses late licence after ‘violent incidents’

Club Aquarium review followed alleged sexual assaults and stabbings at venue

31 January, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Club Aquarium – famous for being a nightclub with a swimming pool – is one of Islington’s oldest nightclubs

A STUNNED silence filled a Town Hall chamber as councillors announced that they would revoke the late licence of one of Islington’s oldest nightclubs after the police described “violent incidents” at the club being akin to scenes from the Battle Royale films.

Promoters and clubbers had filled the council room on Tuesday in a bid to show their support for Club Aquarium – the venue in Old Street famous for being a nightclub with a swimming pool.

Its licence was called in for review following a spate of violent incidents, including alleged sexual assaults and stabbings.

The club was one of the last venues in the capital to have a 24-hour licence, which operators used to stay open until 6am every weekend.

Councillors revoked the current leaseholders’ licence. The owners of the buildings hold a “shadow licence” which could allow them to bring in new operators but with a finish slashed to 2am at weekends.

Police Constable Petros Loizou, who had compiled a report of more than 17 alleged incidents in the past three years, told the committee: “I have provided CCTV of the levels of violence and some would be forgiven for thinking it was scenes out of the film Battle Royale, people fighting in the street with weapons and occasionally being kicked with such impact to render them incapacitated and indeed left in the middle of the street.”

In one incident, a woman was ejected from the club in December. She went across the road to another venue and then returned having taken off her clothes, and attacked the door staff while still in a “state of disrobement”.

During a three-hour meeting, lawyers representing the club challenged the police’s account of what happened on the nights they were called out and said that revoking the licence would be a “draconian decision” that would destroy a “community asset”.

Cllr Paul Convery said that there is a risk that venues like Club Aquarium are “accentuating and worsening” the “rise of violence” seen in London streets recently.

Barrister Leo Charalambides, representing the club, denied this and said that staff at the club “shared the frontline with the police” and that the club had “excellent” safe­guarding procedures.

He added: “This venue has been operating since 1995. The licence was converted in 2005. We have gone through the history, there has been no reviews but full and effective engagement. This is the first time they have been called in and you’re saying let’s throw in the towel, instead of building on over 20 years of serving the community of Islington or build on the benefits of this venue or have a discussion on how to iron out any issues.”

The club has six months to consider whether it will challenge the council’s decision in the court.

A spokesman said: “The venue is obviously shocked and disappointed at the decision, and it is dismaying that the committee had to be pulled up in one of the later exchanges by the venue’s barrister for seeming to have a pre-determined position.

“All options are now being considered.”

Charity: ‘More action is needed’

A WOMEN’S charity has said that “more action must be taken” to protect women from abuse on nights out after Club Aquarium was accused of offering a woman “two free entry tickets” as compensation after she was allegedly sexually assaulted in the venue.

The club “categorically denies” that the woman was offered tickets but said it had sacked the security staff in question.

A spokeswoman for Solace, a charity fighting to put an end to violence against women and girls, said: “The response was not only inappropriate but also dangerous as the perpetrator went free and who now remains a potential danger to more women in the future.”

The police confirmed that an investigation had been opened into the incident in 2018 and a man was arrested, but no charges were made and the case is now closed.

A spokesman for the club said: “On the point raised by Solace, we concur that more action must be taken to ensure woman can be free to enjoy a night out free from abuse, and that venues play a key role. In the particular incident cited that is why the security in question were sacked, staff have received Welfare and Vulnerability Engagement (WAVE) training, and follow the ‘Ask for Angela’ protocol.”

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