Bar forced to temporarily close after Mad Friday brawl saw it stripped of licence
Date published: 21 January 2020
Photo: Google, DigitalGlobe
Infinity Bar, Middleton
A bar forced to temporarily close following a ‘Mad Friday’ brawl in which two police officers were injured has been shut down for good.
Infinity Bar, in Middleton, had its licence suspended last month after a female officer was stamped on – and her male colleague knocked unconscious – when they intervened in a street fight outside the venue.
And the bar has now been stripped of its licence altogether, after a committee heard how the fracas in the early hours of Saturday 21 December was not an isolated incident.
Footage of the melee, in Long Street, was shown to Rochdale council’s licensing committee in a private section of the meeting.
And in public they were shown CCTV of a 30-man brawl – in which yobs wielded iron bars – that occurred outside the Market Place club in September 2019.
Some of the participants were then seen returning to the bar.
The panel was also presented with evidence of how the venue had flouted licensing rules – serving alcohol after hours and allowing drunken customers to remain inside the premises.
Door staff were also said to have been ‘100% inefficient’ at preventing or defusing violent incidents, while premises supervisor Victor Adereni had failed to call the police during serious incidents.
Police evidence of drug-dealing and related violence was also heard by the committee, who described their decision to cancel the licence as ‘appropriate and proportionate’.
David Kent of GMP’s legal services told the meeting there was a ‘clear lack’ of governance and management at the club and the door staff were ‘ineffective’.
“It appears there is limited if any understanding of the licensing objectives or, even worse, (they) have been completely disregarded,” he added.
Middleton councillors backed the police application to revoke the licence, citing a ‘substantial number’ of complaints from residents.
Councillor Kallum Nolan told the meeting the town had ‘struggled with violence’ over the last few years – including the fatal stabbing of one his friends, Michael Hoolickin – and was deeply concerned about how Infinity Bar was being run.
He said: “To hear the licensee is not adhering to licensing standards in terms of CCTV et cetera is really, really worrying for me – not just as a councillor but as a resident.
“We are all trying really, really hard to make the town the kind of town we all want to live in. We don’t want people getting stabbed to death on our streets.
“And if we’ve got a place that’s open till five in the morning and not adhering to regulations that really worries me, because what’s to say that won’t happen again?
“I’m disgusted to see that CCTV of people running around hitting people with pieces of wood. I’m genuinely shocked.”
PC Stuart Ockwell also showed the committee CCTV evidence taken from inside the bar during the early hours of Sunday 22 December – the night after the brawl in which two officers (one female and one male) were so badly hurt they needed hospital treatment.
Mr Adereni called the police after a customer – who slipped off his chair after falling asleep – became aggressive towards door staff when asked to leave.
Having arrived at the scene, a police officer carried out a licence check and found the venue was open and serving alcohol beyond its permitted hours.
He also discovered the CCTV was wiped every four days – rather than the 30 stipulated by the licensing conditions.
Mr Adereni was said to be ‘exceptionally argumentative’ and not willing to accept the findings of the police inspector.
However, in mitigation, Mr Adereni said Infinity Bar contributed to the town’s economy – and produced a petition signed by residents he claimed wanted the venue to stay open.
Referring to earlier police evidence, he denied allowing drug dealing on the premises and also said he did not serve people after hours – although the latter claim was contradicted by CCTV evidence.
Mr Adereni told the committee he had upgraded the CCTV system since 21 December and he had plans to take over the bar under a new company if given a reprieve.
He said: “We are going to improve if given the opportunity to let the licence continue.
“We have already done a lot of things to make changes to make sure what happened won’t happen again.”
However, Councillor Donna Williams – who chairs Middleton Township Committee – echoed Councillor Nolan’s comments, saying she was ‘shocked’ by the evidence of licensing breaches.
She also told the committee of her concerns that women were not safe in the venue.
“I am sickened I have had to come to this to hear and to see the evidence we have seen today,” she said.
Addressing Mr Aderenis, she added: “This is Middleton, we do not operate like this and we do not want your venue here.”
Speaking after the meeting Councillor Williams said she was delighted with the decision to revoke the premises’ licence.
She said: “We’re extremely pleased that the committee has listened to us as members and our concerns with regards to keeping the public safe in Middleton. Our vision for Middleton isn’t this.”
Committee chair Councillor Phil Burke said: “This decision puts a clear message out that we will not tolerate any form of violent disorder that takes place in any licensed premises in Rochdale.
“When it comes to people who blatantly flout the law we will come down robustly and heavily upon them, as we have with these premises.”
The council’s licensing sub-committee met at Rochdale Town Hall on Monday 20 January.
Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter
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