Antwerp Mansion will be forced to close permanently in one month, after its what its bosses described as an “eight-month planning wrangle with [Manchester City] Council.”
Speaking to The Mancunion, councillor Angeliki Stogia, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Environment and Skills, said, “any suggestion that this decision is about anything other than the fact that Antwerp Mansion were not operating appropriately is completely wrong.”
Mrs Stogia’s comments come after the club, club-goers, and DJs criticised the Council for “plan[ning] to destroy all nightlife that is not in the city centre,” as Antwerp Mansion stated in a press release.
She continued: “we are a city that welcomes students, supports student nightlife and knows how to enjoy itself. What we don’t welcome is businesses such as Antwerp Mansion which consistently fail to engage with us over a long period to address legitimate concerns expressed by residents, the police and others.
The building has been operating as a club for seven years, despite only having a license (from the 1920s) to run as a private members’ club.
The club’s manager, Ben Hourahine, speaking to the Manchester Evening News, said “the council put us on an enforcement notice for its use as a nightclub which has been used for seven or eight years now.”
“We had no warning of this and no one from the Council made any attempt to speak to us.”
Alex Sansbury, local DJ and student at the University of Manchester, started an online petition backed by Antwerp Mansion on change.org. He said: “the closure of Antwerp is not because it is unsafe, it is not because they have had noise complaints, it is not due to thieves or drugs. The petition currently had over 15,000 signatures.
He claims that the closure of Antwerp “is because the council…want to destroy the student nightlife in this area irreparably… so students will have to go to the centre of town for a night out…which saves them [Manchester City Council] money.
“Our student community is being lied to by the Council and the Police; they are stifling creative spaces for all the wrong reasons.
“The student body must come together…to spread the truth about what is happening to our local nightlife.”
Manchester City Council said, “Manchester is rightly renowned for its nightlife and we welcome venues in neighbourhoods across the city but there has to be a balance so they work with the community, not against it. It is important that anyone opening a venue contacts the Council to get planning advice before they open.”
Antwerp Mansion issued a statement saying they had “no warning” that the club only had a license to operate as a primate members club and that “no one from the Council made any attempt to speak to us.
“During the appeal process both sides submitted evidence for and against the venue to continue as a nightclub. At this point MCC’s planning department started used every department available to them to gather evidence to support what we considered to be their very weak case.
“Despite no noise complaints in over two years, suddenly one was made and used in evidence against us. Licensing officers were regularly sent sometimes four or five nights a week on evidence gathering trips to inspect the building. Antwerp Mansion received letters from City Council licensing stating that we were in breach of multiple licensing conditions to our complete disbelief.”
Manchester City Council said, “our decision to take enforcement action against Antwerp Mansion has been scrutinised and upheld by an independent planning inspector appointed by the Government, who rejected Antwerp Mansion’s appeal.”
The club also claimed that, “the local authorities also want Antwerp Mansion removed from existence as it has been labelled a crime hotspot.” They alleged that the crime statistics are “meaningless” because the the majority of crime around the club involves phones being lost and registered as stolen for insurance purposes, but the Police do not record phones being returned.
Highlighting increasing concerns about crime in Fallowfield and surrounding areas, Antwerp Mansion asserted that “Antwerp Mansion is not a crime hotspot and we will not be blamed for students being attacked. It is the responsibility of the local authorities to look after its citizens at night.”
The Council said the club’s closure will be “good news for local residents who have put up with significant noise, violence and other anti-social behaviour brought to their neighbourhood because of Antwerp Mansion.”
A protest has been organised for the 16th of March in St. Peter’s square. The description of the event reads: “Antwerp Mansion has been a home to so many of us. I care deeply about the music scene in Manchester and the amazing venues that give it a place to live and thrive.”
Note: this is an amended version of previous article.