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Kingston Essence nightclub's licence revoked despite owner Franco Lumba's last-minute plan
Essence nightclub's licence was revoked last night despite a last-ditch attempt to save it by owner Franco Lumba.
The decision came after a marathon 11-hour hearing heard evidence the club's clientele was "the very lowest of life".
These included manslaughter, attempted murder, possession of firearms and ammunition, sexual assault, robbery, burglary, drug dealing, and assault on police.
Another 24 people went unidentified after staff let them in with such identification as credit cards and an Oyster card.
One man got in using a woman’s ID, according to police testimony.
After the hearing, Ch Insp Gary Taylor of Kingston police said: "We only take premises to expedited review in extreme circumstances.
"The right decision was reached."
Essence, below John Lewis Kingston on Kingston's riverside, lost its licence after an 11 hour hearing
Mr Lumba's legal team contacted the council last Friday afternoon with a new proposal to sell on the club, with a full change of staff, to former Surrey Sports Centre owner Richard Hunt.
But councillors rejected that approach, saying the plans were "premature".
Mr Hunt had signalled his intention to run a club for over-25s, and said he would hold regular meetings with residents to address their concerns.
He told councillors: "18-year-olds, they just can't help themselves - if they get a drink inside them they want to fight the world."
He added: "There is an awful lot of work to be done to get this place running right."
Buying the club would have cost about £400,000.
Representing Mr Lumba, Michael Bromley-Martin QC insisted the club could be run properly, and said the situation was "reparable" without revocation.
He said: "The police have never before complained that there was levels of crime and disorder that was failing to promote the licensing objectives.
"This has only changed in the last few months."
Mr Bromley-Martin, laying the blame at the feet of management and outside promoter Trio, said the music played at Essence during Trio's tenure was "of a kind which attracts persons involved in gang affiliations in south London in particular."
In a forthright exchange, committee chairman Councillor Stephen Brister told Mr Lumba: "It seems that you are taking no responsibility. This is not just the responsibility of the designated premises supervisor.
"As the licence holder you are responsible for achieving the licensing objectives."
Mr Lumba, who lives in Twickenham, said that after a 2011 licence condition banning him from the day-to-day running of Essence he had "stepped back" from the business.
He added: "I don't get involved with it at all.
"I left Des [Murphy, the designated premises supervisor, now sacked] to control it."
Essence owner Franco Lumba, pictured at a court appearance last year
Mr Lumba's legal team said he had complied "religiously" with the condition banning him from day-to-day involvement.
Mr Lumba added he had only returned to overseeing his various businesses after being acquitted of money laundering charges last year.
In August 2013 he was ordered to do 240 hours of unpaid work after being convicted of assaulting an ex-girlfriend in a hotel car park.
And in April he was fined £75,000 for “defiantly” ripping up the floor of the listed Gala bingo hall.
The licensing sub-committee's decision is open to appeal for 21 days after a decision letter has been sent.
Mr Bromley-Martin declined to comment at the end of the hearing.
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