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Old Kent Road nightclub licence suspended after brawl

Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

An Old Kent Road nightclub's licence has been suspended after a brawl where a customer tried to strangle a police officer.

Old Kent Road nightclub licence suspended after brawl

Police were called to K-CHE VIP Latin Club in Old Kent Road in the early hours of Saturday 29 February 29 after a large fight had broken out that security failed to get under control.

One customer tried to strangle a police officer, while another tried to hit people armed with a brandy bottle at the venue.

Footage of the brawl, played for Southwark licensing sub-committee members at a virtual meeting this week, showed revellers punching and throwing people to the ground.

A customer was tasered when police arrived and screams from officers for "more units" could be heard on footage from body-worn cameras when they saw the severity of the brawl.

According to the police report: "During the incident, a number of fights occurred inside and out and a police officer was assaulted inside the premises by a male grabbing the officer by the throat and squeezing.

"He also attempted kicking out and had to be restrained by a number of officers.

"The customers were dispersed from 516 Old Kent Road and large numbers went into McDonald's next door where a number of other fights occurred."

Following the incident, which led to police dogs being brought to the club, the police called for the club's licence to be reviewed.

The venue has a history of violence linked to it – from December 2018 to December 2019, 12 incidences were reported, four of which involved incidents of grievous bodily harm (GBH).

In November last year a man was knocked unconscious with a bottle near the DJ booth, after which the council reviewed the club's licence and added a set of conditions.

Police were also called at the end of January this year after a man was assaulted, but management couldn't provide CCTV of the attack, breaching the conditions placed on the club the month before.

PC Graham White told the sub-committee that police wanted the club to remain closed pending a full hearing after the latest incident, which forced the club to shut and took nearly an hour and a half to get under control after fights spilled into McDonald's next door.

He said: "Obviously in the current climate the premises can't open, however if things change the police are requesting a suspension of the licence pending a full hearing in case the Government changes its policy and the premises can open prior to the full hearing.

"It's a premises we've had considerable problems with.

"We wish for it to be suspended to protect the public and protect police officers.

"This is not the first time that officers have been injured when attending."

K-CHE's owner, Fernando Ramos, who runs other venues across London, told the committee that he blamed the security for what happened that night.

He said: "That evening in question we were really let down by our former security firm, we've since changed the security across all our venues.

"We started off really well with them 12 months ago but I just think they took on too many jobs.

"The team we had originally were completely aware of the club, they knew what it was, but as the year went on they were moving the usual security to other venues.

"On the night in question we had requested to have ten security, only six showed up.

"Apart from that, all I can do is apologise. We did our best, we had done everything, executed all the things you told us to do in December."

Mr Ramos said he took on more staff and that water was on the tables at all time, though this was questioned by committee members.

He said he was also considering changing the club to over-21s, hiring a security supervisor, and making all promoters in-house.

"We need someone on the management side of the business to oversee if all the security staff are doing their duties.

"Having 300 people, it's very hard for a manager or licencee to keep an eye on the customers, staff, and security," Mr Ramos said.

He added that the new security firm was "working wonders" in his other clubs, but despite his arguments the committee decide to suspend the licence.

Chair Cllr Renata Hamvas announced that the sub-committee had ruled that the club's licence "be suspended with immediate effect" pending the result of a full hearing to be held on Tuesday 12 May.

The full reasoning behind the decision will be sent to all parties within five working days.

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