21:36 | 25th May 2019

News: UK

Wed 26 Nov, 2014
By Robert Ingham

It’s bizarre how radically the area has changed in the past few years

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Madam Jojo’s, the diverse and eccentric club which has been at the heart of nightlife in central London’s decadent Soho district for more than half a century, has been shut down.

Westminster revoked the venue’s licence this week following an incident outside the club on 24 October, when a bouncer became involved in a dispute with a customer.

A police report which concluded with a call to suspend the venue’s licence, pending full revocation, said that members of the security team and their taxi operator violently assaulted a man following a verbal altercation. The man then left, but returned and threw bottles at the bouncers and members of the public.

The bouncers then attacked him with baseball bats.

But supporters of Madame Jojo’s believe the council are using the incident as an excuse to close the club as part of moves which have gradually gentrified the area, the Guardian reported.

As well as being famed for playing its part in the area’s thriving LGBT and burlesque scene, Madame Jojo’s also hosted earlier gigs by bands including The Xx, while New Zealand popstar Lorde played her first UK show at the venue.

Following the altercation in October, Madame Jojo’s removed its previous bouncers and managers for a team approved by the local council, but still failed to save the club’s licence.

Marcus Harris, who co-ran White Heat new bands night at the venue for over a decade, told the Guardian said that London had lost a "huge part of Soho’s history".

"There has been a venue in that place since the 1950s and it was given that name in the 1960s," he said. "It’s a huge part of Soho’s history. Even the way the venue is decorated, there is nothing else like it in London. You can go there and see bands, you can see DJs, but you can also see cabaret and burlesque all sorts of unusual nights under one banner. It’s like a community of fringe culture."

He said that during his tenure at the club, it had a good relationship with the council and nothing violent had ever happened before. Harris added that the closure is a symptom of how Soho is in "the clutches of gentrification" and the council’s negative attitude towards the older venues in the area with licences to open late.

“It’s one of the few places left round there which has a 3am license, seven nights a week. They want to make Soho about families - shopping, going out to eat, going to the theatre. The bars shut at 11 and you’re home by midnight.”

“It’s bizarre how radically the area has changed in the past few years,” he said, adding: “It looks largely the same but it’s had a lot of its history gutted.”

Tim Mitchell, the chairman of Westminster city council’s licensing committee, said in a statement: “On 24 October, an organised assault with injury took place - involving staff from Madame JoJo’s and Escape Bar - raising serious questions about their management.

“Our licensing sub-committee has to consider the safety of the public and after considering evidence from a number of interested parties, including the police, it was concluded that the licences for both bars should be revoked.

“The fact that these events are the subject of an on-going criminal investigation tells you how serious the assault was - and also means we are unable to say any more at the moment.”

Madame Jojo’s said they had no comment.

Source: The Independant
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