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Stab death nightclub loses licence after police warn of ‘terrifying risks’

The Crane venue has been closed since footballer Cody Fisher was stabbed on the dancefloor on Boxing Day 2022.

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Cody Fisher death

A Birmingham nightclub where a footballer died after a knife attack has had its licence revoked after police warned of “terrifying risks” to patrons.

West Midlands Police said the club’s on-going operation posed “grave” concerns to the safe operation of the site, amid “blatant” and widespread drug use, and “inadequate” security measures, which had allowed a knife to enter the venue.

The force previously said there had been “serious management failings” at the Crane venue, when officers responded to the fatal stabbing of Cody Fisher, 23, in Digbeth, Birmingham, on Boxing Day 2022.

Cody Fisher death
The Crane nightclub in Digbeth, Birmingham (Phil Barnett/PA)

The club’s licence had been suspended for 28 days after an interim meeting held last month, but on Tuesday, a Birmingham City Council licensing committee ordered the licence to be revoked, after an application by the police force.

The council also continued the existing suspension first handed down on December 30 2022, meaning the club cannot reopen while any appeal against the decision by its operator and licence-holder Digital Arts Media Ltd is considered.

A previous police report documented how a knife alleged to have been used in the attack was found on the dancefloor of the Adderley Street venue.

The venue

The report also described how responding officers found a “scene in chaos” and “evidence of drug use”.

Security and club staff were also “oblivious” and “started to clean up the dancefloor” while CPR was still being performed on Mr Fisher.

In a verbal summary of police evidence to the committee, Gary Grant, a barrister representing the force, said the club’s ongoing operation poses “terrifying risks” to patrons, and “grave” outcomes to public safety and the prevention of crime, inside the premises.

“That is why the police ask you to revoke the premises’ licence,” he added, saying the evidence justified such action.

While a licence had been granted to the event-led venue in the summer, it had only been operating since October 2022 before ending up facing the most serious sanction, the committee was told.

In an assessment of what he said was an “inadequate search regime”, Mr Grant added that not only was a knife brought inside the club, but also drugs – while there was “blatant” use of illicit substances, leading to three people needing treatment for an “overdose of one drug or another”.

One female patient, carried out to an ambulance, was said to be “dribbling… and barely breathing” before she was taken to hospital.

Mr Grant said: “Within just over three months, this venue is here facing a summary review, triggered by an individual being murdered inside the club.

Cody Fisher death
When police arrived, they found a scene of ‘chaos’ (Phil Barnett/PA)

“That, in itself, gives rise to rather terrifying risks involved in the operation of this venue.

“On Boxing Day, Cody Fisher was tragically killed inside the venue and in addition, when the police investigated, they discovered what can only be described as blatant and widespread drug use being unchallenged inside the premises.”

He added there was evidence of use and supply of nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, and “hundreds of discarded drug bags, containing white powder” were found on the dance floor.

“The licence-holder, we say, failed to uphold the highest standards of management operation of this venue,” said Mr Grant.

Searches of patrons were “inconsistent and haphazard”, the venue’s perimeter was “unsecured”, and there was a “general perception this was not a properly-controlled event”.

Mr Grant said there “were only two possible ways” a knife and drugs could get inside, either from the “inadequate” searches or “over an unsecured perimeter wall”.

“Either way, when you are running a venue expected to have several thousand people attending, those are not the sort of details that can be overlooked or, indeed, forgiven, if there are issues that arise because of the inadequate operation of the premises,” added the barrister.

In a written report to the committee, a licensing enforcement officer described seeing mobile phone footage recorded inside the venue shortly after the attack, and shared on social media.

It showed a clubber “inhaling a balloon” thought to contain nitrous oxide, and “oblivious to the presence of the police”, while CPR was being attempted on Mr Fisher.

Nicholas Leviseur, barrister for the licence-holder, submitted revocation of the licence would be “wholly inappropriate in the circumstances”, citing the venue’s overall operational record.

However the three-member committee disagreed, returning with their decision after 90 minutes.

Three men, aged between 18 and 22, have been charged with Mr Fisher’s murder and remanded into custody awaiting trial, set to be held in July.

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