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Birmingham’s Rainbow Venues to appeal after licence revoked over drug-related death

By | Published on Thursday 30 November 2017

Rainbow Venues

Birmingham City Council has revoked the licence of nightclub complex The Rainbow Venues, following the drug-related death of a teenager on the premises last month. The decision was made after nineteen year old Michael Trueman died at a Halloween event due to the drugs he had taken.

According to Resident Advisor, West Midlands Police officer PC Abdul Rohomon said at a hearing this week that they had “no option but to call for Rainbow’s licence to be revoked”, as this was the second drug-related death in the eleven room complex in two years – the first being eighteen year old Dylan Booth in 2015. He added that there was also “evidence that a fifteen year-old boy has been admitted to the venue”, based on video footage from Snapchat.

Rohoman added: “There are around 3000 licensed premises in Birmingham and this is the only venue which has suffered drug related deaths. The most stringent measures are in place yet drugs are still being consumed inside the venue”.

With the Birmingham clubbing complex now in a similar situation to that London nightclub Fabric found itself in last year, people have similarly rallied in support following the Council’s decision on the Rainbow licence. As in the case of Fabric, many have noted that revoking a club’s licence will not stop people from taking drugs, and will potentially put them in more dangerous situations by consuming drugs in places that lack the safety measures best practice club venues operate.

The Guardian reports that The Rainbow Venues already has CCTV, sniffer dogs and random searches in place in a bid to prevent drug use at its events. However, said Rohomon, “some customers … use the most extreme measures to smuggle drugs including putting pills in car keys and also intimate places in their body. We simply can’t guarantee that no drugs will ever get through”.

In the discussion around anti-drug initiatives during Fabric’s licensing battle, there was much debate about the pros and cons of using sniffer dogs at the entrance, which the London club was being pressured to do. Some point out that too strong a security presence at the entrance can scare people into taking all of their drugs in one go in the queue outside, which is much more dangerous.

In the case of Trueman, police said that he died after taking MDMA in the toilets at the club on 29 Oct. It had been his first experience of taking drugs, Rohomon said at a hearing to temporarily suspend the venue’s licence earlier this month. Trueman’s friends said that his demeanour had changed almost immediately after he took the drugs and they sought medical attention for him. He died in hospital the next day.

At the time, the Rainbow Venues said in a statement, reported by the Birmingham Mail: “The venue’s thoughts of comfort and condolences are with the grieving family and friends for the tragic young loss of life. West Midlands Police have demonstrated that The Rainbow Venues acted responsibly, and adhered by all of it’s licensing objectives. The Rainbow Venues are working cohesively with West Midlands Police and local authorities to further enhance our operations”.

In a new statement yesterday, the venue confirmed that it will now be appealing the decision to permanently revoke its licence. It also denied that a fifteen year old had been admitted to the venue and then reasserted that it had adhered to all the conditions of its licence.

In the statement, Rainbow Venues also talked up the impact of its operations on Birmingham’s nighttime economy, and on the wider creative industries, plus on the city as a whole, not least by regenerating previously disused buildings.

Also, similar to The Arches in Glasgow, which closed in 2015 following its own run-in with licensing authorities, they added that clubbing events in the main Rainbow Warehouse venue subsidised many non-profit making projects that happen elsewhere in the complex, which would also be lost if it is forced to close down.

“We have been resurrecting redundant buildings and regenerating an area around Digbeth with creating and performing arts spaces”, the venue’s management said. “Showcasing new local and international talent, theatre, comedy, food and electronic music … Every penny that came in was re-invested into Birmingham helping enhance Birmingham’s nighttime economy and enhance our customers’ experience”.

They continued: “We believe the future economic success of Birmingham is dependent on the ability to both attract and retain talent. Whilst we have several great universities in Birmingham, many new graduates head straight for the bright lights of the capital. Part of our challenge to retain them should be a forward thinking interesting city that values recreation arts and culture. Closing down venues that offer so much to the city is not going to help us achieve this”.

Addressing safety within their premises, they said: “We firmly believe that our team took great care, time and passion to create a safe environment for people to enjoy our events. We had very robust policies that West Midlands Police have accepted are more stringent than any other licensed premises in the country”.

They added that no one can “promise that drugs will not enter licensed premises”, but that it was the drug users, not the venue, who had broken the law.

“There is a global society issue, this won’t be the last drug related death on licensed premises”, they said. “We can’t lie. We didn’t lie. This will happen again and again. There needs to be a universal, collaborative approach to the UK’s drug problem. Let’s educate and not be so quick to revoke licences that practice the correct policies”.

Describing the decision to close The Rainbow Venues, and other venues around the country, because of drug use as “prehistoric”, they warned that this will simply be “pushing these events back underground” where “there are no measures in place to protect people from harm”.

The Rainbow Venues has a 21 day time limit to launch its appeal.