A POLICE officer told a nightclub owner not to let black people into his venue, it has been alleged.
Roy Seda, owner of Dice Bar, has submitted a statement to Croydon Council in which he accuses Sgt Michael Emery, head of the borough’s licensing team, of nodding when asked: “Are you saying I shouldn’t let black people into my venue?”
The statement is Mr Seda’s formal response ahead a hearing on Friday, during which police will try to persuade the council’s licensing committee to restrict the High Street club’s opening hours.
Police have submitted 404 pages of evidence to support their claim that high levels of drunkenness at the premises have led customers and police officers to be put at regular risk of harm.
Mr Seda rejects the allegations and, within his statement, published on the council’s website, he has accused the police of racism.
The former solicitor and ex-special constable says Sgt Emery and PC Darren Rhodes visited his club on January 2, 2015, to instruct him not to allow former customers of Yates’s – which had recently closed due to disorder – from entering his venue.
Seda says he made a number of suggestions, including requesting a list of barred customers, which were rejected by Sgt Emery.
His statement continues: “After exhausting all questions, and going around in circles, the penny dropped. Yates’s had a majority of black customers. I asked the two officers directly: ‘Are you saying that I shouldn’t let black people into my venue?’
“PC Rhodes … said nothing and remained silent. I looked over to Sgt Emery, who raised his eyebrows and widened his eyes as he looked at me; he then nodded several times.
“Finally, I understood what they meant by not letting in Yates’s customers. I was so struck by this, I didn’t know what to say, and remained silent.
“I remember that moment as if it happened an hour ago, the memory of it is etched in my mind forever.
“The memory is a burden on me and I find it difficult to talk about because the racial connotations make me feel so awkward.”
Mr Seda says he “grappled” over whether to mention the incident at the hearing but decided to do so because he believes “venues which have black clientele are treated differently by police licensing than those that have white clientele”.
He said clubs like Tiger Tiger (now closed), Lloyds and Reflex (since renamed to Luna) experienced serious incidents but “as one club owner told me, ‘If white boys have a punch up in a white club, no worries, if black boys have a punch up, lord help you’.”
There is no suggestion that Mr Seda acted on the suggestion or that police pursued it.
Borough Commander Andy Tarrant said he could not comment on the allegation before the hearing.
He added: “We have statements, corroborated by CCTV, that we believe raise serious questions about Mr Seda’s ability to run his club properly. We are looking forward to presenting this evidence to the hearing.”
Last month, police were accused of racial profiling by black community leaders after the Advertiser revealed Sgt Emery had sent Mr Seda a letter in which he said bashment, a form of Jamaican music, was “unacceptable” in Croydon.
Mr Seda has also passed the Advertiser an audio recording during which Sgt Emery questions why the club is playing bashment and drum and bass.
Police say the music ban was Mr Seda’s idea, a claim he denies.
In his statement, Mr Seda continued: “It is clear for me to see the licensing police do not want black people coming out to Croydon’s nighttime economy as they have discouraged me from having black customers, and have been discouraging Jamaican music.”
According to minutes published this week, Mr Seda raised the issue of race and Croydon’s nighttime economy at a meeting with police on July 3, 2015.
They read: “SB (Mr Seda’s solicitor) made a comment that it looks as if only venues where high numbers of black males/black music are the only places being reviewed [by the police].
“ME (Sgt Emery) and DR (PC Rhodes) both stated that was not the case and had never had problems at venues such as [The Granaries]. It is more about large groups of males.”
Earlier in the same meeting, PC Rhodes “asked what is attracting the undesirable customers to the venue” and “suggested that it may be the type of music that is played”.
The Met’s evidence bundle includes several references to “undesirable” IC3 (police code for black) males.
In one report about the Dice Bar, an officer wrote: “There were very apparent issues in respect of there [sic] clientele (numerous undesirable IC3 males) inside with trainers and hoodies.
“There were clear [sic] large groups of IC3s loitering around outside the venue having initially been declined entry.
“The group’s attitude towards police was very negative, hostile, quite apparently were not receptive to our presence and there was a feeling or an intense and unpleasant atmosphere around.”
The officer goes on to describe a group of black males as “very anti-police and gave us attitude, uncooperative and clearly undesirable”.
Speaking about the bashment ban last month, Nero Ughwujabo, chief executive of Croydon Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) Forum, said: “We do not accept that music from the black Caribbean community is a cause of violence or disorder.
“If the expectation is that bashment attracts certain types of people one would assume that is referring to a Caribbean, and specifically Jamaican, crowd.
“If you are saying there is violence and disorder associated with that community then that is profiling in a way that is unacceptable.”
The issue of race and Croydon’s nighttime economy was also raised by councillors at a scrutiny committee meeting in February.
Committee chairman Sean Fitzsimons said: “An issue has been raised with me that black nightclub owners are having a tough time with the police in terms of licensing and if you set up events that feature black music or appeal to a predominantly black audience it’s difficult to get a licence.”
Cllr Fitzsimons said he had primarily been referencing issues in Brixton following the closure of Fridge Bar.
He said: “I do think there is a real issue, but it’s a London-wide one as much as it is a Croydon issue.
“The parting words of the owner of Fridge Bar are very similar to what has been said in Croydon. They were that police seem to give a lot of attention to clubs that play black music.
“I think the Met is profiling certain clubs. That’s the reason why they have always been opposed to certain types of events because of the crowd that attends them.”
Police in Croydon faced similar allegations last year when, in an unprecedented attack, council leader Tony Newman accused “draconian'”officers of giving urban music artists and their fans “the impression they are not welcome” in Croydon.
Borough Commander Andy Tarrant said at the time that licensing regulations were “fair and applied appropriately”.
Source: Croydon Advertiser