Two nightclubs in Manchester city centre have had their licenses suspended after a series of violent incidents saw a doorman stabbed, people trampled, and metal poles ‘used as weapons’.
Separate fights between patrons and door staff took place at Cirque and History, a stone’s throw away from each other on Deansgate, in the early hours of September 19.
One incident saw every police officer in the city centre respond, where they were met with ‘aggression and violence’ while trying to disperse a crowd of 100 people.
Greater Manchester Police are still investigating both incidents as well as a stabbing at one of the clubs, which happened a week before the ‘serious crime and disorder’ last weekend.
The force asked Manchester city council to introduce interim measures on Cirque and History.
Licensing bosses agreed on Wednesday to temporarily shut down both nightclubs ahead of a full review hearing next month.
The managers of both clubs were unopposed to the suspension.
‘Poles used as weapons’
The first interim measures application submitted by GMP related to Cirque, formerly known as Press Club and Toy Box, on Queen Street.
In the early hours of September 19 customers on two separate tables in the club’s VIP area began fighting, the hearing was told.
Despite being moved into the main bar area the groups continued to fight, and during the melee a man was knocked unconscious and was later taken to hospital.
The groups were split up, with one being escorted out of the club through the back exit and the other through the main entrance where the fighting carried on.
PC Christine McIntosh said: “Once outside metal barrier poles and ropes continued to be used as weapons both by the door staff and the customers.
“Vehicles parked outside had their windows smashed by the two males that were ejected.
“Door staff can be seen chasing the males into Deansgate whilst carrying the poles and ropes.
“What is clear is that disorder and serious crime occurred at the premises.”
The incident lasted around 50 minutes, added PC McIntosh, and a crime report of Section 18 wounding and violent disorder has been submitted by GMP.
But the force’s investigation has been hindered by the fact that Cirque staff failed to properly record the details of the individuals using the club’s ID scanning system.
A door supervisor decided to keep the IDs of the party which caused the violence and kept them in an office ‘as a deterrent for them to behave’ before giving them back half an hour before the violence erupted.
John Common, operations director of Cirque, told the committee: “This is not our procedure, I don’t understand why this was done.”
Rebecca Ingram, the solicitor representing Cirque owners OOTF Ltd, said her clients ‘understand the seriousness of the incident’ and had agreed to close the venue until investigations had concluded.
The committee said the incident happened ‘as a result of a breakdown of the club’s procedures and policy’ and undermined licensing objectives, as well as breaching a condition of the club’s licence relating to ID scanning.
A decision was taken to suspend the licence, therefore closing the club down on an interim basis, until a full review can take place on Friday, October 15.
‘People were trampled on the floor’
On Saturday night, police had already been gathered close to History, a separate club on nearby Longworth Street, after a doorman had been stabbed on September 12.
A male customer had been ejected from the premises for disorderly behaviour, and shortly after the man returned to the queue and got into an altercation with door staff.
The man then stabbed the security guard in the back and was later detained and arrested for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, PC Stuart Hammersley told the hearing. But a week later on September 19, trouble hit the club again – just hours apart from Cirque.
At 1am, around 100 people were gathered outside History and, despite the efforts of around eight door staff, the crowd forcefully made their way past the barrier and into the venue, with CCTV showing streams of people running up the stairs.
PC Stuart Hammersley told the hearing: “If you look carefully you can see a few people trampled on the floor.”
Police officers entered the club to help disperse the crowd, and found that several members of the door staff were not wearing hi-vis jackets as required by the licence.
Then, at around 4am, further disorder broke out inside the nightclub and two men suspected of being in possession of knives were thrown out.
During the fight a man could be seen waving around a bottle of spirits which had been removed from its secure fastening to a table, while CCTV showed another man brandishing a metal pole barrier in the middle of the club.
What did police say?
PC Hammersley said: “Officers witnessed fights between customers and door staff, and felt that the management and security at the premises had lost proper control of the venue.
“All of the police resources available in the city centre were in attendance at the venue.
“Officers were met with aggression and violence outside the venue as they attempted to clear the area of people in attendance.”
Around 25 officers – including from the tactical aid unit to deal with the knives – attended the incident in total, the meeting heard.
Both men were later found to have two seven-inch blades and were arrested for possession of an offensive weapon, PC Hammersley said.
Club manager Mohammed Mohamud thanked GMP for helping to clear the venue and admitted that staff had broken the rules of the licence by not wearing proper hi-vis jackets.
But his solicitor Richard Williams, while accepting the suspension of the licence, disputed claims by GMP that there were insufficient door staff on duty to deal with the disorder.
“There were 100 people who were refused entry by History, the door supervisors said they were in too large a group, you’re all male and we’re not allowing you in,” he said.
“Ultimately they stood around and decided to storm the door to gain entry.
“Having looked at the videos, it’s going to take more than eight supervisors, I would perhaps say man to man you would have to have 100, to deal with this.
“These are simply criminals who are intent on gaining access to a club when they have been refused entry.”
Manchester council’s licensing subcommittee imposed an immediate suspension of History’s licence, and described the incidents on September 12 and 19 as ‘serious risk to public safety’.
Alternative measures were not considered due to the ‘lack of control of the premises internally and externally’ which resulted in knife incidents across two consecutive weeks, they said.
What happens next?
Councillors will be presented with four options on October 15 for both clubs: to change the conditions of their licences; to ban certain activities from their licence; to remove the designated premises supervisor; or revoke the licence, which would restrict the clubs from selling alcohol.