Cirque Le Soir in Deansgate was temporarily ordered to close by the council’s licensing committee following a mass brawl inside and outside the venue in the early hours of September 19.
A full review hearing was told that a man was knocked unconscious inside the premises and taken to hospital, and security staff at the Queen Street club chased patrons outside using metal barrier poles and ropes as weapons.
One man who had been at the club brandished a ‘makeshift club’, and there were threats made to shoot people, according to Greater Manchester Police.
PC Alan Isherwood said: “It is no exaggeration to say that it was some of the worst disorder linked to a licensed premises that I have seen in my 11 years as a police licensing officer.
“The fact that security barriers are wielded and used like clubs and thrown across a main road is truly shocking.”
What did the police want to happen to the club?
GMP and the council’s licensing and out of hours team had called for the club, which was formerly Press Club and Toy Box, to permanently lose its licence.
However the committee agreed to allow it to reopen with additional conditions to improve safety as they said the incident was a ‘one off’.
The violence began after customers on two separate tables in the club’s VIP area began fighting, the hearing was told.
They were moved to the main bar area by door staff, but continued to fight and throw bar furniture within the club.
CCTV from inside Cirque shown during the meeting shows dozens of men fighting as security staff and women dressed in lingerie attempt to pull them apart.
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.
Vehicles parked on Queen Street had their windows smashed and were ‘indiscriminately damaged’ as the violence spilled into the road.
PC Isherwood said that one doorman ran 300 metres up the road to John Rylands Library to continue engaging with a clubber.
The whole incident lasted around 50 minutes.
GMP said its 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.
Rather than being put through the club scan machine which records the details of patrons on the night, a member of staff had instead collected the IDs of the main party later involved in the violence.
The hearing was told that the staff member believed she was taking an additional security measure but it was a ‘mistake’ and they were now facing disciplinary proceedings.
CCTV footage also showed that patrons who had been outside smoking did not all go back through the knife arch, and the security team were not wearing a recognisable uniform, with most in waistcoats or gilets, some with armbands.
What did the club say in response?
Sarah Clover, the barrister representing Cirque owners OOTF Ltd said the knife arch bypasses were ‘human error’ but that door staff had behaved ‘in a way that was absolutely unacceptable’.
“This is a one-off episode, fairly catastrophic, no doubt, but it stands alone,” she said.
“The things that are complained of about the club in the sense of non-compliance, conditions or otherwise are not component factors to the violence and disorder that occurred.
“It is wrong to say that this club is beyond redemption because it ‘always has a bad crowd’ and it does now.”
PC Isherwood told the hearing that police had been unable to attend when the first calls came about the brawl in as all officers on duty in the city centre had been engaged at tackling violence at another club, History, at the same time.
Former Met police officer Adrian Studd who had been employed by OOFT Ltd as an independent consultant said discussions with police when they eventually arrived were hampered by the assistant manager having been injured in the melee which meant he was ‘unable to take control’.
In reference to the behaviour of security staff, he said: “The door supervisors as we saw had been under attack, it’s often the case that people in that situation – their blood is up and they are not making the rational decisions that they would make in a more calm situation.”
John Common, director and managing partner of Cirque, told the committee they were taking steps to ‘make sure these mistakes and non compliance don’t happen again’.
Committee chair Coun William Jeavons told the hearing that they ‘seriously considered revocation’ of the licence.
“Behaviour of the door staff on the night was entirely unacceptable,” he added.
However, the panel agreed to allow the club to continue to trade with a number of beefed-up conditions.
These include security staff wearing high visibility jackets or vests and body-worn cameras, a list of door staff being shared with GMP, and a head door supervisor to be appointed.
When open to the public there must be two senior management level members of staff on duty, and CCTV will be required to cover the search area and club scan machine, with people re-entering the club directed through the knife scan arch.