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Old Street nightclub with pool in fight for its future

Club Aquarium says it sacked security after woman’s report of sexual assault inside venue

24 January, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

A decision on the future of Club Aquarium in Old Street is due on Tuesday

A FAMOUS nightclub has been accused of offering a woman “two free entry tickets” by security after she reported that she had been sexually assaulted in the venue.

As the Tribune previously reported, Club Aquarium’s licence is being reviewed and councillors are scheduled to make a decision on its future on Tuesday evening.

The long-running venue in Old Street is known for its unusual set-up of having a swimming pool inside the nightclub.

The case will be brought before councillors after police reported several violent and anti-social incidents.

In one case a woman was allegedly sexually assaulted by a man, according to the latest report by Police Constable Petros Loizou.

His report has been published by the council for public view on Islington’s website.

“Friends of the victim informed one of the security members who did not take any details and did not challenge the suspect,” PC Loizou said in his report.

“The following day the victim contacted the venue. She received a response via Facebook and [she was] offered two free entry tickets.”

The police report said: “The matter was not reported to the police, this is wholly unacceptable and it would be expected for management to have conducted a more thorough investigation due to the seriousness of the incident.”

The incident is alleged to have happened in August 2018 and a man was arrested but he was released and the investigation was closed.

In a statement to the Tribune, the club said through its lawyers Goodman Derrick: “The security firm in the incident you referred to were fired shortly afterwards. The venue categorically denies the allegation that tickets were offered in recompense.”

PC Loizou said there had been 75 alleged crimes at the club over the past three years. These included 35 thefts, nine incidents of GBH, 12 assaults and four sexual assaults, he said.

Police asked for a review after a man was found with head injuries on New Year’s Eve after allegedly being hit with a Champagne bottle.

The statement from Club Aquarium said: “Although low in number for a venue that has an annual footfall of around 95,000, any allegation of sexual harassment or sexual assault that is brought to the venue’s attention or spotted by the staff is taken very seriously indeed.

It added: “The venue is signed up to the Mayor’s Women’s Night Safety Charter. Staff have received training, and follow the ‘Ask for Angela’ safety protocol.

“More training is due imminently [subject to the club being able to reopen].

“Its record on this front is, as a result, very good, and its standards are high.”

The licensing review will be heard at the Town Hall. The club’s management has said it is looking forward to presenting its “side of the case” to councillors.

Club Aquarium’s case is backed by the Night Time Industry Association (NTIA).

It supported the popular Fabric venue when it was threatened with closure after the death of two clubbers who died after taking recreational drugs.

To the dismay of regulars, the club was closed temporarily in that case but later re-opened.

Michael Kill, NTIA’s chief executive, said: “The NTIA and Club Aquarium Management are actively working to provide the highest level of operational training to the management and staff, focused on delivering a safe and professional environment for patrons to enjoy a range of diverse cultural experiences.”

The club has received a raft of messages of support after it emerged that its licence could be removed and it has been celebrated for hosting both specialist and mainstream music events.

Mr Kill said: “Club Aquarium has been part of the capital’s night-time economy for 26 years, attracting visitors from across the UK and internationally with its broad range of cultural and dynamic entertainment offerings.”

Committee councillor: ‘Let us make decision without abuse’

Cllr Paul Convery

A LICENSING councillor has warned clubbers to “keep calm” as the Town Hall gears up to make another big decision over the future of a popular nightclub, writes Calum Fraser.

Labour councillor Paul Convery, who will be on the panel to consider Club Aquarium’s licence on Tuesday, has issued a word of caution over the conduct of the public.

Cllr Convery referenced the Fabric nightclub committee meetings held in 2016 when the then chair Councillor Flora Williamson received an “avalanche of abuse” from supporters of the music venue.

Cllr Convery said: “Flora received some very aggressive and personalised abuse during the Fabric case. I am not saying that is inevitably the case here but there are some parallels. This is a large, popular nightclub which some clubbers feel loyal to.

Cllr Flora Williamson

“What happened with Fabric was a small minority of people that I do not believe was condoned by the proprietors.”

In that case, Cllr Williamson had chaired a marathon meeting running late into the night at which tempers flared over the decision to remove Fabric’s licence. One man was prosecuted for sending a death threat.

Club Aquarium is one of a small number of venues in London which holds a 24-hour licence.

Cllr Convery added: “Good decisions are not reached in an atmosphere of threatening violence. We need everyone to keep calm and then we can make a balanced and fair decision.”

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industry Association which supported Fabric and is doing the same with Club Aquarium, said: “The Night Time Industry Association works hard to ensure that unreasonable challenges on cultural spaces are brought to the public’s attention, but do not support any vexatious or abusive communication aimed at key decision-makers, and would urge anyone who would like to support or give representation to the review process, to do so by communicating constructively through the available channels.”

He added: “We would also like to highlight that this signifies the importance of cultural spaces within London’s night-time economy, and the passion that our organisation shares with the public in ensuring any action taken against these spaces are challenged and discussed within the public domain.”

A spokesman for Club Aquarium said: “There is no excuse for such abuse. In this instance I do not think, however, that there is a need to ‘call for calm’. As you will see from our submissions, the response from the club and its supporters is firm but measured. And we very much look forward to committee digesting and hearing our side of the case, with all due process.”

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