Report by Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter
A Leytonstone live music venue running for 16 years has shut down after its licence was suspended.
Luna Lounge owner Suja Khaled announced its closure on Sunday, saying he could no longer act as the day-to-day supervisor.
Waltham Forest Council’s licensing committee had banned the venue from selling alcohol or playing live music after 11pm for three months, following a licence review requested by police.
Posting publicly on Facebook, Suja wrote that 16 years of “distributing happiness into society through live music” had “come to an end”. He added: “All I ever wanted to do was make people happy, this was never really a business.
“I built everything with my own hands, no money and sheer drive to make it work. I sacrificed my personal life for this.”
Responding to the news on Facebook, customer Rodrigo Prado said: “There must be a solution for this. Leytonstone would not be the same without Luna.”
Suja has the option to either appeal the decision or hire another person to act as the licence holder, but has said he could not afford to do this.
At a council licensing committee last month, the Metropolitan Police called for the venue’s licence to be revoked entirely after Suja “launched into a hostile verbal onslaught” against officers at the venue on Saturday 4th July, the first day pubs were allowed to reopen following the coronavirus lockdown.
In a statement, PC Brand said he saw customers drinking outside, there was no door supervisor, and “no social distancing whatsoever”. When he spoke to Suja about these problems “for no apparent reason, he [Suja] launched into a hostile verbal onslaught” against police and accompanying council officers.
The police officer added: “His prolonged hostile and emotional outburst led to a significant number of customers attempting to confront police and obstruct them in the execution of their duty.
“As a result of this, it took some time for police to restore calm at the venue again, at the risk of their own safety.”
Suja insisted his reaction to PC Brand was one of “panic” rather than aggression and that the arrival of the officers “created a circus”. He told the committee: “It was a very calm bar, the music was low. When the police came in, everyone stood up, it just erupted.
“I would not be in business for 16 years if I did not follow regulations. I promise you the five licensing objectives are something of a bible to me.”
The committee viewed both police footage and a video taken by one of the venue’s customers while making their decision. Regarding their verdict, the committee wrote: “The committee has no confidence in Mr Khaled upholding the licensing objectives and believe he behaved irresponsibly and unprofessionally.”
The closure of Luna Lounge leaves the area with only Leytonstone Ballroom, currently closed because of the pandemic, and St John’s Music Hall, as dedicated live music venues.