Shut club a haven for criminals, say police

POLICE officers who closed down a Sheffield nightclub have described it as a haven for "several organised crime groups from both Sheffield and nationwide", because of the bassline music it plays.

Niche, in Charter Square, was shut by police last month after an incident in which five men who had been on the premises were stabbed outside.

South Yorkshire Police closed Niche down a few days after the stabbings in the early hours of Sunday, July 19. A decision on the club's future is now set to be made at a meeting of Sheffield Council's licensing committee on Thursday.

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Councillors may choose to revoke the club's licence for good, or allow it to reopen under new conditions.

A police spokesman said: "The Niche, also known previously as Vibe, has previously been closed and reopened at a new location in November 2009.

"Since that time there have been approximately 37 incidents reported to the police. These incidents have included complaints of assaults both inside and outside the premises.

"There has also been large-scale fighting outside the premises. Known organised crime gang members have travelled from around the country to attend Niche."

Another police officer said the security staff at Niche failed to search clubbers adequately. The officer said: "The door staff use a knife wand on each person upon entering.

"However, I have noticed that even if the wand identifies metal, the area alerted is not searched properly and the person is just waved through.

"Certain door staff, in my opinion, appear to have associations with the members of organised crime groups, shaking hands and acknowledging each other upon entering."

Club owner Steve Baxendale said that the police had suggested a "raft of conditions" before the licensing meeting, which would have to be put in place should Niche be granted permission to reopen.

He said he was happy to comply with these, and also pointed out that there is already "airport-style" security in place to prevent gang members bringing weapons inside.

Mr Baxendale said: "Our metal-detection search is second-to-none at this venue.There's so many gangs in this city and we don't know who these gangs are.

"Once they're in the venue, we're at the mercy of whatever turf war they're bringing in.

"All the clubs suffer when they come in. They come in in twos and threes and then meet up inside. We're the victims of that."