Club Aquarium: Councillors revoke 24-hour Old Street club’s licence after reports of attacks and sexual assaults

Club Aquarium in Old Street. Picture: Google

Club Aquarium in Old Street. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

Councillors revoked a 24-hour Old Street night club’s licence last night.

The licensing sub committee stripped Club Aquarium's licence after police put forward a "stack of evidence" indicating there had been a rise in violent crimes and sexual assaults in and around the venue.

The committee also reduced the shadow licence held by the building's owners to "framework hours". These are 8am to 1am Sunday to Thursday and 8am to 2am on Friday and Saturday.

Committee chair Cllr Phil Graham told the Gazette: "Given the evidence that was put forward and the amount of stuff that's happened over the years I'm afraid it was [revoked]. I don't like closing places down and taking places away but in this case we have got a duty of care to the people who go there. I feel like management wasn't operating as it could do."

Club Aquarium, known for its swimming pool, was already set for a licence review after police had to deal with 300 angry customers who had been denied entry to the Afro Beats in the City event in October.

But since then a string of other serious incidents took place adding to the Met's concerns, including a man having a Champagne bottle cracked over his head on New Year's Day.

In a report ahead of the licensing hearing next week, Pc Petros Loizou listed 75 incidents between September 2018 and September 2019 - including 35 thefts, nine incidents of GBH, 12 assaults and four sexual assaults.

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The club says it has always worked with the authorities, and that most of the crimes, including the New Year's incident, cannot be linked to the club, and merely happened in the surrounding area.

It says the October incident was due to an incorrect announcement at an O2 Arena Wizkid concert regarding an afterparty and that there is "no conceivable way" a Champagne bottle could have been removed from the venue.

However, in one case, police say friends of a woman who was the victim of a serious sexually assault in the venue alerted security guards, who took no details and did not challenge the suspect.

The victim said she was then offered two free entry tickets when she contacted the club about it the next day. The club denies offering her anything.

"There has been a failure by the security team to detain a suspect," Pc Loizou said, adding: "The matter was not reported to police [by the venue]. This is wholly unacceptable and it would be expected for management to have conducted a more thorough investigation."

Club Aquarium said the security firm involved in the incident had since been sacked and that staff had W.A.V.E training and followed the Ask for Angela sexual harassment protocol.

Through its lawyers Goodman Derrick, it added: "Although low in number for a venue that has an annual footfall of around 95,000, each incident of sexual harassment and sexual assault that is brought to the venue's attention or spotted by the staff is of course taken very seriously indeed."

Police wanted the opening hours stripped back to 9am to 1.30am every day. They also called for the designated premises supervisor to be replaced and after discussions the club says it has now done that, and removed the swimming pool.

The Night Time Industries Association has supported the venue, saying it is one of the few in the UK with a 24-hour licence, and is "flying the flag for the future of 24-hour London".

The club added: "Aquarium Management Limited firmly disagrees with the picture painted by the police in their review of its licence, which they consider to have been instigated precipitously and with considerable reliance on incidents in the wider area and beyond that are being unfairly laid at the venue's door.

"We are therefore putting forward a robust defence of another iconic London nightclub, which is under threat. This is a vital community asset, and we are working hard to secure its future."

Club Aquarium has been approached for comment about last night's decision.