Public safety concernsFollowing a hearing on 18 March regarding Imperial’s licence, Oxford City Council licensing sub-committee decreed that there were significant concerns over “public safety and crime and disorder at the premises”, and that the licence would be suspended for six weeks after the appeal period was up. As a result of the hearing Mushab Ahmatov, the premises supervisor was removed from his position.From 1 April to 8 December 2007 there were 16 violent incidents at Imperial, and a further nine incidents requiring a police presence. Police also referred to another incident where between 15 and 20 men were involved in a fight on 16 February, but no bouncers got involved. “Steady drip of assaults and thefts”Richard Brown, Oxford’s City Centre Police Inspector, was present at the meeting as a representative of Thames Valley Police. He explained that the decision to review Imperial’s licence had been taken following a number of incidents since the beginning of this year. He said, “There were a number of violent disturbances both inside and outside the building. We were also concerned about the state of the premises itself, in particular the electrical safety.”Brown stressed that the licence suspension had been a last resort. He added, “We had had several meetings with the owners of the club and they hadn’t addressed the issues we raised.“The premises really came to our attention back in August and all the way through the autumn. There was a steady drip of assaults and thefts. Management did not seem to have a grip on controlling these incidents.”Tony Cope, the Police Licensing Officer, said that the police had actually asked for the revocation of the licence, but that suspension had been decided as the appropriate course of action during the hearing.Cope said, “There have been reports of underage drinking, drugs, and fights. Basically everything you don’t want in a nightclub.“We carried out a licensing check on 18 December and realized that there were a number of breaches to their licence. We gave them two months in which to address these breaches but there was no evidence that they had done anything about them.He added, “If Imperial does open again, then we will be monitoring it very carefully, and any further breaches will almost certainly result in revocation of their licence.” Eight clubs positive for Class AThe land is on a ten year lease from Christ Church, and a new lease holder, Mr McClure, has leased this for five years from the previous owners.McClure said, “Imperial has had problems with underage drinking and with violence outside the nightclub; the police also found evidence of Class-A drugs in the toilets.” In early February a high reading of cocaine was found after bathrooms were swabbed during a routine licensing check. Police have forced Imperial to close after suspending its licence in a clampdown on nighttime crime.In addition, the Bridge has been served with a licence review notice, following reports of violence and evidence of Class-A drugs on the premises of both clubs. Glass-free BridgeFollowing the decision to suspend Imperial’s licence, the Bridge nightclub has been given a licence review notice, imposing certain conditions on the way it operates. The nightclub faces a hearing on 29 April.Phil Davidson, owner of the Bridge said, “There have been a few incidents at the Bridge and we are working with the police to ensure that this number is reduced. Our main concern is to create an environment where, if trouble does start, it cannot turn into anything more.”As a result of the Council’s action both clubs are set to bring in sweeping changes.Davidson said that they were making the Bridge a glass-free zone. He said, “We are replacing all our glasses with polycarbonate ones and will be decanting all our bottles into these.”Imperial will be following suit and will also be introducing searches on entry when it reopens. Whilst these searches will technically be voluntary, anyone who refuses to be searched will not be admitted.A hearing is due to take place on 29 April but could be cancelled if the club resolves the concerns raised by the police. Inspector Brown said : “The owners of the Bridge are co-operating with the police and I am fairly certain that this will not result in the closure of the Bridge.”Louise Randall, OUSU Vice President (Welfare), said, “I welcome the news that the licences of such clubs are being monitored.“Students should be able to feel confident that the club nights they go to will be safe and fun. Sadly, if club owners are not willing to make the effort to provide these themselves, then sanctions on licences are necessary.” The drug traces were however not the reason for the suspension. McClure added, “this is run-of-the-mill stuff for nightclubs, it is nothing out of the ordinary, the police also found evidence of Class-A drugs in eight other clubs in Oxford.”Scott Grant, the Environmental Health Officer, said that a “huge list of problems” were found at another inspection that took place in December.Despite these problems, McClure is optimistic. He stated, “We hope to build Imperial into a thriving business, where people can have fun in a safe environment.” The club plans to have over-21s only nights on weekends and bring into place more stringent identification and search restrictions.