Louche: Soho bar licence suspended after man 'raped' in toilets

Louche bar in Soho (Google Maps)
Louche bar in Soho (Google Maps)

A cocktail and live music bar in Soho where a customer alleges he was orally raped in a toilet has been temporarily shut down by the Met Police.

Louche on Greek Street will remain closed from Friday while a full review of its licence takes place.

Westminster City Council, which granted the closure, also temporarily banned the sale of alcohol and ordered the removal of the current designated premises supervisor during a hastily-convened licensing meeting.

It comes as a man alleges he was orally raped in Louche’s toilets.

When the alleged victim informed security guards, he and the suspect were taken outside together where the suspect then wandered off, councillors heard.

The victim said the suspect had entered his cubicle while he was trying to exit and forced the man back inside where he was repeatedly assaulted and eventually forced to perform oral sex, a council report shows.

The alleged victim made multiple attempts to escape but the ordeal only stopped when a member of the public heard his cries for help and alerted security.

An arrest has been made. The Met Police said Louche’s response to the incident had been “shockingly inadequate” and had put customers and the public at risk.

Armin Solimani, representing the Met Police, said rather than detaining the suspect, Louche’s security guards escorted him and the alleged victim outside where he then disappeared.

The lawyer said: “Nobody called the police. The manager on site didn’t call the police. The first thing she did was call the general manager to ask what to do. Clearly inadequately trained, clearly irresponsible.”

He said the suspect was eventually tracked down using CCTV from private venues and an ID scanner used by another club the suspect visited.

Councillors also heard how the general manager, known only as Patrick, was off site meeting his brother when the incident took place.

When police approached him, Patrick appeared to have no knowledge of the venue’s licensing conditions and kept advising officers to speak to the owners, according to council documents.

Louche’s owner Dennis Rogers said the general manager’s behaviour was poor and may have been because he was serving his notice period at the time.

Mr Rogers, who runs Louche and a private members club in Soho with his son Elliott, said he was appalled by the way security guards handled the alleged sexual assault.

He said a new operator was in place and the CCTV system had been upgraded. Mr Rogers also said he was representing himself because his lawyer was unable to represent the business with just 48 hours’ notice, which was given for Friday’s meeting.

He said: “It was a terrible, terrible situation that happened that night with an individual who was looking for this kind of thing to happen. Equally, we don’t excuse the behaviour of the management or do we excuse the behaviour of the security staff.”

He pleaded with councillors to allow his family-run club to stay open saying closure would threaten jobs. Mr Rogers said: “It’s a very difficult situation to have the licence suspended because it’s a business situation. We’re not a corporate business. It’s a very, very awkward thing for us to be shut for a month. There are large overheads for operating in Soho.”

Councillors also heard how just over a week earlier a man had his tooth knocked out during a fight on the dance-floor.

Mr Rogers said other than these two incidents, the venue had not reported any serious issues for the 12 months it had been run by his family. His son Elliott said he was not aware of the fight until recently.

But the Met Police’s lawyer accused Elliott of not telling the truth saying police had emailed him the day after and were advised to contact management instead. The Met Police’s representative said the Rogers’ other Soho club had been served with a closure notice after allegedly failing to run as a private members bar.

Mr Solimani said: “The point is about trust. It’s about trust in the middle of Soho in an area with a high risk venue which serves alcohol and is essentially a nightclub and they didn’t take these steps to keep their customers safe.”

He added: “[Louche’s owners] have shown such disregard for their customers’ safety that we have serious concerns this will happen again. If we don’t suspend the licence, there will be another crime. There may well be another sexual assault that could have been prevented.”

Handing down her ruling, licensing committee chair Angela Piddock said: “The committee is satisfied the premises is associated with serious crime and it is necessary and proportionate for the steps outlined to be taken and the decision to have immediate effect to prevent serious crime occurring and to protect the licensing objectives.”

Louche can object to the ruling, which will result in an interim hearing within 48 hours.