Dance Academy boss Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh stripped of his licence
Plymouth City Council chiefs have today stripped Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh of his licence for the venue, raided by police in 2006.
The licensing sub-committee heard evidence from police, the council's environmental health department and from Dance Academy owner Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh himself this morning.
Police highlighted the events leading up to a large-scale raid at the Plymouth Union Street nightclub venue in 2006, the subsequent trial at Plymouth Crown Court, and the failed appeal.
Environmental Health officers highlighted a 'shocking number of concerns' which they claim put revellers at risk of harm when the club was operating.
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Councillors today decided to revoke Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh's entertainment licence - effectively blocking him from reopening the Dance Academy.
In August last year it was revealed that Bahmanzadeh still held a valid licence to operate the Dance Academy as a nightclub - despite the venue being closed since 2006 when it was raided by drugs police in an operation which saw the club boss jailed for four years.
In August 2009 Plymouth City Council’s licensing committee was warned it would be in contempt of court if it removed the Dance Academy licence’s before Proceeds of Crime proceedings had been completed.
The proceedings were completed in June 2011, but it appears the city council did not pick up on this information.
In January 2012 Bahmanzadeh won the right to appeal against his conviction, again putting the licence decision on hold.
Last November, Bahmanzadeh failed in his bid to overturn his conviction for allowing Ecstasy to be sold at the club.
At the time he said he has no idea what will happen to the empty, rundown building – which he still owns – following the failed attempt to clear his name.
After the hearing he said: “Whether anybody believes this or not, I did more than a lot of the other club owners in the city to target drug dealers. I got involved physically and was congratulated by the police. I personally threw out people who have since been convicted of serious drug dealing.”
Despite failing to overturn his conviction, Bahmanzadeh’s appeal against sentence was successful, reducing it from nine years to seven-and-a-half, effectively setting him free.
Prosecutor Duncan Penny made no representations at the Royal Courts of Justice, leaving Lord Justice Laws, accompanied by Mr Justice Griffith Williams and Mr Justice Males, to give his decision.
Lord Justice Laws accepted that fresh material showed how former head doorman Gareth Grimes was not a credible witness thanks to his own involvement in the drugs-related killing of Fernando Lopez in 2004 and his lies about being a Royal Marine. He said the court accepted his credibility was further undermined as it emerged that while working as a doorman at Bongogo’s he had tried to sell drugs to an off duty officer and boasted of his £5,000 a week earnings.
However, while it bolstered Bahmanzadeh’s claim he had fired Mr Grimes for ‘taxing’ dealers, and undermined Mr Grimes’s view that the club’s management did not appear ‘enthusiastic’ about searches, Lord Justice Laws said this did not damage the case and unduly influence the jury’s decision, adding Mr Grimes’s evidence was “by no means at the heart of the case”.
He said Mr Grimes’s claim to Tom Costelloe to being a former Royal Marine was merely to indicate his “physical presence” and would not have affected his credibility.
He reiterated there had been numerous meetings and correspondence with police about the sale and consumption of drugs at the premises prior to the drugs raid on May 7, 2006. In addition, he read out extracts of several Test Purchase Officers who repeatedly described the sale of Ecstasy in the club as “blatant”, “overt” and “obvious” during Operation Jonamac which ran from December 1, 2005 to the club’s closure.
He said there was “no doubt he [Bahmanzadeh] relied on others, but responsible, he was” and he “failed to take reasonable steps” to prevent the sale of Ecstasy.
He said it was also extremely doubtful if Bahmanzadeh would have been helped if the jury were told another man “was involved in drugs” and the evidence of Tony Pattinson, of the Harbour centre, who had said the drug taking in the club was “no worse than other clubs”, would not undermine the conviction.
Mr Justice Laws said trial judge Judge Francis Gilbert’s summing up, saying the music played at the venue was associated with the consumption of drugs, and the quantity of bottled water was not “unfair”, adding “it seems to us that the judge was entirely entitled to refer to them.”
He said the “essence of the Crown’s case is, in our view, unaffected.”
The appeal judges accepted that new sentencing guidelines would mean Bahmanzadeh’s nine-year term should be reduced to seven-and-a-half. As he had been jailed in July 2008, it would mean he had fully served half his sentence.
Outside court Bahmanzadeh said: “There’s still a lot of information which the courts and police have not disclosed. I don’t know what will happen next. I still own the building [Palace Theatre], but what happens next I honestly don’t know.
“We will have to see the implications of this on my licence. I’m going to think. Whatever I had thought [was going to happen] has turned out not right.”