Club Aquarium is one of the only remaining 24 hour licensed music premises in London. As the recent Mayor of London’s Night Time Commission pointed out, we need more 24 hr licenses not less. This places an important UK venue in an unfair and untenable position’
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. It seems very sudden that after a strong history without operational issues, the recent incidents in the last 12 months, proportionate to its 26-year history resulted in the venue facing an expedited review of its license, culminating in the license being suspended at an interim hearing last week, and now pending a full hearing later this month.
The Night Time Industry Association fully supports Aquarium Management, and firmly disagree with the picture being painted by the Metropolitan Police in their review of its license, much of which is reliant on incidents being related to the venue, due to its geographical significance within the wider area or mitigating circumstances.
London is proud of its cross-cultural background, with its Night Time Economy leading the world by hosting a culturally diverse music and events program. This success is against a backdrop of continued systematic limitations placed on venues and events which entertain or host certain types of music and audiences, which are deemed to be high risk.
The removal of the 696 form from Police operations was a positive step forward in terms of reducing the level of discrimination by the authorities against certain genres of music and audiences. We have not solved the underlying issues, and we continue to battle the undertone of discrimination against some music cultures.
We have written to the Licensing Sub Committee requesting clarification on the suggestion that the venue “attracts clientele who are prepared to engage in violent and unlawful behaviour”: further suggesting within the notes from the expedited review that “one of the attributing factors to the level of crime was the event “Afrobeats in the City”.
We have many examples of specific cultural and community music events being targeted by the authorities based on the perception of crime or the potential to be a ‘crime generator’ as described within the Metropolitan Police witness statement. This is of serious concern to the industry and our members.
We are aware that there was a request by the Police for the AfroBeats in the City night to be discontinued, both at the meeting on 18 December at Islington Council Offices, 222 Upper Street, and also in the Interim Steps hearing on 3 January at Islington Town Hall.
We are deeply concerned that once again we are faced with discriminatory challenges against certain types of cultural music and community music events. We have reminded the council of their obligations under paragraphs 14.66 and 14.67 of the S182 Guidance and invite the Licensing Sub-Committee to give serious consideration to an Equalities Impact Assessment before making any substantial decision.
We must support our Night Time businesses in managing our diverse consumer market, by working together in collaboration with the Police and Local Authorities to manage issues, but without detriment to the cultural spaces and ultimately the UK economy.
We are also aware that the condition relating to the reduction in operating hours, which have been requested by the Police for the licence following the review, is unrealistic, and would compromise the business financially leading to only one outcome, the loss of an iconic venue within London’s Night Time Economy!
Placing unreasonable conditions on licenses, restricting operations or increasing costs without solid evidence or good reason is not acceptable, and needs to be challenged if we are to maintain a healthy Night Time Economy within our Cities.
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.
We have already had massive support from the public to ensure that this does not continue to erode the night time business sector