A Seven Sisters Road club has had its licence to serve alcohol revoked at the request of Islington licencing police, who presented evidence of “Wild West” levels of violence at the venue to a recent council meeting.
According to police, one incident at Eritrean bar Afasika on 5 November saw violence spilling out into the street, with around 30 people fighting with planks of wood and lengths of metal.
However, those working at the club expressed their concern at a meeting on 4 July that the venue was being blamed for wider antisocial behaviour in the area, arguing that while Afasika was a focal point of the violence the business needed further help from the authorities to handle the violence.
Solicitor Kerrie-Ann Rowan, who represented Afasika, said: “We are dealing with a road where there is a serious volume of traffic, and members of a certain community frequent the area.
“It is easy when violence occurs on the street, with a large group of men of a certain ethnic background, it is very easy and problematic to attribute that violence to one location where it may not be appropriate to do so, and caution must be applied to doing that, particularly in these circumstances.
“What the venue is concerned about is that this violence on the street appears to be linked to patrons of other bars with younger members of the Eritrean community who frequent venues closer to the park, and that issues with these patrons are being attributed to their bar, with this community all being tarred with the same brush.”
Rowan argued that five other Eritrean bars are in close proximity to Afasika, with the November brawl being linked to civil unrest between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Responding to criticism that the designated premises supervisor (DPS) of the venue had been “completely ineffective” in his attempts to quell the disorder, the solicitor said: “You can see the premises supervisor in the footage doing his best in very difficult circumstances to quell the violence on the day.
“Criticism has been laid at the DPS that he didn’t interfere to a greater degree, but in my submission anybody in his position would be limited in the extent to which they could intervene safely in such an incident.”
Afasika had the latest opening hours of any of the other venues, leading councillors to investigate whether an order bringing its hours earlier could address the problem, though police at the meeting resisted the suggestion, arguing that the bar would attract fights whatever the hours.
Security guard Adedotun Ajao added: “The owner is trying his best, but Afasika needs help from the police. We do our best, but they keep coming back to Afasika.
“One week it’s Afasika, then it’s another venue. Most of these boys, 16-18 years old, don’t have ID – when you challenge them, it’s an immediate fight.
“The police and Finsbury Park guards need to control the area, then there would be no more problems.”
Ajao claimed that the incident in November had occurred as a result of a specific group of young men who had been causing trouble in bars and clubs across London, according to a WhatsApp group of other security guards who had tracked the violence.
According to Cllr Vivien Cutler (Lab, St Peter’s), Afasika has been the site of 28 different incidents over the past year, with neighbours up in arms over noise nuisance stemming from the venue.
Cllr Cutler said: “[Mr Ajao] makes an interesting analysis of the issues in the area, but the solutions are unlikely to be very successful when you have people who you say have no identity, therefore it is impossible to find them.
“People will not make any statements and run away on occasion, even if they have been badly assaulted.”
An Islington licensing police officer said: “Where do I begin with this one? I’ve never seen this level of violence around a licensed premises. You’ve got a full house of everything from crime and disorder to public nuisance to harm of children, it ticks all the boxes.
“We’ve got CCTV showing scenes best described as something out of a Wild West movie, with people spilling out of the premises and fighting using planks of wood, sticks, whatever they can.
“We have tried to engage of the premises, but there’s been no improvement. We’re not talking minor breaches – I’ve never had any ID data, and I know they have an ID scanner installed there. Nothing’s really improving, but the levels of violence are getting worse and worse.”