Bouncers at Lava&Ignite nightclub have been accused of physical and verbal aggression by a number of students, with one accusing the club’s door team of homophobia.
Students have also been critical of the responses of police, who are said to have told one alleged victim, “Come back when you’re not drunk.”
The allegations sent to Cherwell relate to a number of incidents at the club, colloquially known as ‘Park End’, that have occurred over the past year.
The first statement came from a former Jesus student who graduated this year, relating to an incident which occurred on 11th June. He told Cherwell that, at the end of the night, as the bouncers were clearing the top floor, “One requested that I move towards the exit. I responded that there was a bottleneck at the doors and I preferred to wait as the crowd dispersed.
“At this point one of the bouncers grabbed my arm and I asked him to let go. This was the only motivation needed for three bouncers to violently drag me to a separate empty stairwell. There I was held by three bouncers as a fourth punched me in the stomach and legs and a fifth shouted continuous abuse.
“At one point it seemed that I could leave as three bouncers started to deal with a separate issue — though as I moved towards the exit, I was once again violently manhandled and put in a chokehold. After this I was forcibly carried down the stairs, where I saw another student being led by his neck by three other bouncers, having just undergone similar violent treatment. I was left with heavy bruises and cuts on my upper arms, bruises on my neck and deep cuts on one wrist. At no point was I provocative or violent.”
The Jesus graduate seems not to be alone in being dragged to an empty stairwell. An anonymous Brookes student informed Cherwell that he was taken to a “staff staircase” on a Monday night last year, having paid for entry. The student described how, “Before we knew it one of my friends was being kicked out — the bouncer doing so was abusing his power of authority, and quite aggressively so by shoving him out onto the staff staircase which is inbetween the bar and RnB room.
“After he was shoved out onto the staff staircase, we decided to question the bouncer as to why he had been chucked out, and as a result were forced out onto the staff staircase too. Whilst on the staircase, we suddenly became outnumbered by bouncers by three to one.
“Within the next ten minutes of trying to reason with them, we were all dragged down three or four floors on our front or backs whilst in headlocks, causing painful bruising. At the bottom of the staircase one of the bouncers proceeded to kick me and call me a ‘faggot’, whilst trying to rip my phone out of my hands as I had tried to record some of the incident.”
His phone was then damaged by bouncers, to the extent that he was unable to retrieve the footage.
Frankie Nicholls, an englishist at Exeter, meanwhile, claims she was the victim of physical and verbal abuse on two separate occasions, a year apart. Stating that she had been “drunk” on the first occasion, she explained, “[a friend] and I were pushing each other around in a frivolous way, and two bouncers appeared out of nowhere.
“They both grabbed my arms and picked me up, the force of which left me with two green bruises on my upper arm.
“They then pushed me through the fire exit where there is a lengthy story of stairs. They proceeded to call me a ‘fucking bitch’, and pulled me with such strength that my feet were no longer touching the ground.
“Whilst outside I cried and pleaded that they’d let me in. Instead, these bouncers started mocking me, putting their middle fingers up at me. I was so angry that I called the police.”
The police met her at her college the next day where she gave a statement, before being told a week later that the two bouncers involved were going to be part of a re-training week.
However, she told Cherwell, “These same bouncers still work there. So that doesn’t actually fill me with any joy. They should have been fired after treating me in such a physically abusive way.”
Nicholls claimed that when she returned to the club a year later, she was again a victim of aggression. After “trying to slyly sneak pass the bouncer to get into the queue”, she says a bouncer told her, “‘fuck off you little twat, get back into the queue before I kick you out of here.’”
After eventually entering, she told Cherwell, “The same bouncer saw me in the smoking area, walked over to me, and pushed me. I started screaming ‘What are you doing?’ but he kept pushing me and gritting his teeth, saying, ‘Get the fuck out of here’.
“I felt humiliated, irritated and, to be honest, abused. He came into my face and snarled at me, as if I was some sort of prey. I proceeded to get the police’s attention, and they ignored me, saying ‘come back when you’re not drunk’.”
Second year Naomi Polonsky meanwhile was the victim of a violent threat from a staff member. After trying to explain why she didn’t have her drivers’ license, the bouncer told her to “shut up” and shoved her. She explained, “My friend asked the bouncer not to be so aggressive at which point the bouncer grabbed my friend by the wrist and said, ‘I can be a lot more aggressive round the corner if you want me to be’. Frankly, this kind of behaviour was completely unnecessary — I was only at Park End to carry out my role as an Entz Rep.”
After Cherwell presented the abuse claims to the club, a spokesperson replied, “The safety of our customers is always our main priority and we take complaints of this nature very seriously. Our door teams are fully certified and trained and any complaints are fully investi- gated. Anyone with concerns should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.”
When queried about whether they would be changing their training policies, the club told Cherwell, “We don’t directly employ our door staff but use accredited agencies. All the door staff are Security Industry Authority registered with up to date licenses (which is compulsory in the industry now). They have to go through specialist training in order to receive (and maintain) their licenses.”
Reflecting on his encounter, the original Jesus complainant explained, “These incidents have to be reported. The police told me that the only way this will change is if they get a picture of bouncers’ attitudes from a strong base of reports. Individual cases in themselves aren’t that strong because they’re difficult to prove, so they’re not reported as crimes, but a whole host of student reports has more weight.
“This is a widespread thing which doesn’t get nearly enough attention.”
Thames Valley Police did not respond to our request for comment.