A Sheffield club opened in the ‘wrong location’ due to drug and gang problems on London Road is moving - being replaced with a new branch of a popular city restaurant.
A council licensing hearing was told that a new city centre location is being sought for the Yankee Lounge bar, with work already under way to return the building to its previous use as a restaurant.
But instead of returning in its previous guise as a Turkish restaurant known as Turkuaz, it will become a new branch of Viva Tequila, an Italian-Mexican restaurant that already operates in Gleadless.
The license for the premises was reviewed after it was turned from the Turkish restaurant into the American-style bar without the relevant authorities being consulted in May.
That followed trouble at a privately-booked party at the restaurant in March, in which police were called to reports of a mass brawl involving up to 100 people and people said to be throwing bottles and someone brandishing a knife.
Sean Gibbons, from the council’s health and safety team, said a review had been requested due to ‘public safety’ concerns that the building was unsuitable as a nightclub for up to 200 people when it had previously been a restaurant limited to a maximum of 80 diners.
He said there were particular concerns about the stability of the floor, leading to a request for a structural engineer to assess the property.
A launch night for the Yankee Lounge was cancelled on May 7 on the understanding the club would only open following further agreement with the authorities, but the meeting was told two further events took place on May 29 and June 10.
Michelle Hazlewood, representing owner Huseyin Esendemir, said the club has been closed since June following concerns being raised by the police and council and is in now in the process of being changed back into a restaurant.
Cheryl Topham, from South Yorkshire Police’s licensing team, said she was ‘more than happy’ with how the premises was run as a restaurant.
But she said that due to ongoing crime and disorder issues in the London Road area, she considered it to be the ‘wrong place’ to open a nightclub.
Ms Hazlewood said Mr Esendemir had run the Viva Tequila restaurant in Gleadless, which he has now sold to new owners, in addition to Turkuaz.
She said he had been attempting to deal with affairs affecting his family in Turkey relating to the Syrian crisis at the same time when problems occurred this year.
“His family have a farm very close to Syrian border,” she said.
“To say he has been slightly distracted in the past year is an understatement.
“One of his thought processes had been to focus on Viva Tequila and look to moving London Road to the operation of a third party.
“The March event was a private booking.
“During the course of the night a Somalian gentleman threw a glass bottle at a Jamaican gentleman and the situation escalated very quickly.
“Mr Esendemir made the call to the police himself.”
She said shortly after that incident, Mr Esendemir agreed to work with a new business partner called Mark Blanchard, who he allowed to set up the Yankee Lounge nightclub in his premises.
Ms Hazlewood said that despite the concerns of the police and council, the operation of the Yankee Lounge on two occasions had not breached any conditions of the premises licence held by Mr Esendemir and there had been no complaints of trouble relating to either occasion.
But she added: “It became very clear to Mr Blanchard that no matter what he did with the premises, there would always be a level of resistance within the responsible authorities if it operated as a late-night venue.
“He did the event on June 10 and removed himself from the venue.”
She said news of the licence problems had come as a ‘bombshell’ to Mr Esendemir on his return from Turkey and he has started changing the site back into a restaurant, which will be a new version of Viva Tequila.
“It has not be an ideal two or three months. Things could have been done better, things could have been done differently,” she said.
She suggested the council revise the licence to ensure that it is not possible for it to be used as a bar or nightclub in future.
Mr Esendemir apologised to councillors and said both himself and Mr Blanchard had made a ‘mistake’ in terms of not getting the change of use officially approved.
He said: “It has cost him, it has cost me. We should have checked properly. ”
Speaking outside the meeting, he said he hoped the new restaurant could open in September, subject to the revised licence being granted.
A written decision will be issued by the licensing committee in the next few days.