Leytonstone venue has licence suspended after owner’s outburst

A Leytonstone live music venue is temporarily banned from selling alcohol or playing live music after 11pm following a clash with police.

Owner Suja Luna Khaled was also told he will no longer be able to keep his role as the day-to-day supervisor of the Luna Lounge in Church Lane, a venue he has run for 16 years.

Waltham Forest Council’s licensing committee decided yesterday (September 21), before the new coronavirus restrictions were announced ordering venues to shut at 10pm, to suspend his licence for three months, a decision Mr Khaled said he plans to appeal.

Police had asked for the licence to be removed permanently after Mr Khaled “launched into a hostile verbal onslaught” against officers at the venue on July 4.

Regarding their decision, the committee wrote: “The committee has no confidence in (Mr Khaled) upholding the licensing objectives and believe (he) behaved irresponsibly and unprofessionally.

“However, as there has not been a long history of such issues with the premises over a period of time the committee decided not to revoke the licence on this occasion.”

Police Constable Darren Brand responded to a complaint of overcrowding at the venue on July 4, the first day bars and pubs were allowed to reopen after lockdown.

In his statement to the committee, he said there were several customers drinking outside, no door supervisor and “no social distancing or any other Covid-related measures whatsoever”.

When he spoke to Mr Khaled about these breaches, he wrote that he “for no apparent reason, launched into a hostile verbal onslaught” against police and accompanying council officers.

He added: “His prolonged hostile and emotional outburst led to a significant number of customers attempting to confront police and obstruct them in the execution of their duty.

“As a result of this, it took some time for police to restore calm at the venue again, at the risk of their own safety.”

PC Brand was asked repeatedly by councillors about what had happened to make him fear for officers’ safety but did not give specific examples.

Mr Khaled insisted his reaction to PC Brand was one of “panic” rather than aggression and that the arrival of the officers “created a circus”.

He told the committee: “It was a very calm bar, the music was low. When the police came in, everyone stood up, it just erupted.

“I would not be in business for 16 years if I did not follow regulations. I promise you the five licensing objectives are something of a bible to me.”

He said he told his door supervisor not to come in that evening as he planned to close early at 8pm and was getting customers to drink up when police arrived.

PC Brand stated footage taken by police shows Mr Khaled tell a customer the venue was still serving alcohol at 8.20pm.

Mr Khaled attended two meetings at Chingford Police station to discuss the incident and was instructed to hire another manager to replace him, which he failed to do.

Mr Khaled has until October 12 to appeal the decision to Thames Magistrates’ Court.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter