Leytonstone venue shuts down after licence is suspended

A Leytonstone live music venue running for 16 years has decided to shut down after its licence was suspended because of a clash with police.

Luna Lounge, owned by Suja Luna Khaled, announced its closure on Sunday (September 27), almost a week after the council decided he could no longer act as the day-to-day supervisor.

Waltham Forest Council’s licensing committee also banned the venue from selling alcohol or playing live music after 11pm for three months following the licence review requested by police.

These leaves only a couple of live music venues left in the area, such as the Leytonstone Ballroom, currently closed because of the pandemic, and St John’s Music Hall. 

Posting publicly on Facebook, Mr Khaled wrote that 16 years of “distributing happiness into society through live music” has “come to an end”.

He added: “All I ever wanted to do was make people happy, this was never really a business.

“I built everything with my own hands, no money and sheer drive to make it work. I sacrificed my personal life for this.”

Responding to the news on Facebook, one customer Rodrigo Prado said: “There must be a solution for this. Leytonstone would not be the same without Luna.”

Mr Khaled has the option to either appeal the decision or hire another person to act as the licence holder but previously told police he could not afford to do this.

The Metropolitan Police called for the venue’s licence to be revoked entirely after Mr Khaled “launched into a hostile verbal onslaught” against officers at the venue on July 4.

In his statement to the licensing committee, PC Brand said he saw customers drinking outside, no door supervisor and “no social distancing whatsoever”.

When he spoke to Mr Khaled about these problems, 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.”

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.”

The committee viewed both police footage and a video taken by one of the venue’s customers while making their decision.

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

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter