Club manager speaks out after shooting

KERPAL Bains, the owner of disgraced nightclub Zest, today said he may never invest in Ipswich again after his licence to operate was revoked.

KERPAL Bains, the owner of disgraced nightclub Zest, today said he may never invest in Ipswich again after his licence to operate was revoked.

Speaking for the first time since Londoner Jimoh Plunkett was shot inside the venue on December 9 and died, Mr Bains also offered his condolences to the family of the murdered 24-year-old.

He said: “We deeply regret that someone has lost his life. A family must be devastated and this has to take preference.

“A lowlife has walked into our town and changed a lot of things for everyone.

“I have lost my company and I have lost my livelihood. Around 50 people are out of work because of something out of our control. “My career has been brought to a sharp end, a career which saw me at the top of my game for 25 years.”

Three others suffered gun shot wounds on the night, a garage music event, and another man was stabbed.

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Last week, the police successfully applied to an Ipswich Borough Council's licensing committee to have the nightspot indefinitely closed. Mr Bains was given 21 days to challenge the ruling.

He said: “I am currently seeking legal advice on whether to appeal or not. I would say there's a 90per cent chance I will.

“But if I did appeal and I was successful, what happens then? I have to look at what there is for me in this town. Do I want to invest my money in Ipswich again?”

Speaking about the night of the murder, Mr Bains refuted suggestions that he had failed to employ an adequate number of door staff, claiming eight bouncers were working, although only five had signed the register later seized by police and used in evidence against him.

He also said proper security measures were in place and utilised, including metal detectors, despite the police's belief that a gun was brought into the club.

“It's difficult to stop anybody wanting to get something in anywhere. Look at aeroplanes for example, and prisons. Look how much money they spend but weapons still get through.

“We are a nightclub and only have a certain amount of rights. You could wear a buckle and hide the gun in your underwear.”

The club was initially closed by district judge David Cooper for 28 days in the wake of the shootings, meaning the venue's doors were shut throughout the festive period.

Mr Bains estimated his business missed out on £300,000 in turnover.

The building is owned by a firm in the midlands, and is leased to Mr Bains' company, Kiros Ltd. Another 17 years remain on the lease.

He admitted that around 30 hours prior to the event police had contacted the club with intelligence surrounding the potential for trouble. But he claimed he was not asked to pull the plug, instead agreeing to increase security use metal detectors.

He said: “Whenever in the past the police have indicated there were concerns about any event and asked for a night to be cancelled, we have always complied.”

N What do you think about the Zest closure? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

KERPAL Bains has today accepted that his club had developed a reputation as a trouble hot spot but claimed Zest had been unfairly labelled.

He said: “I have had three million visitors to the club over the years. If you divide that by the number of incidents, it puts it into perspective.

“If you are a club with a 1,500 capacity, you are going to have more incidents than a club with a 400 capacity.

“And people who are pointing the finger should remember it's there sons and daughters who are coming to my club. It's them who do the fighting, pushing and shoving, not me.”

He pointed to the murder of a clubber in August 2000 and a stabbing in December 2005 which he said took place off the premises but had tarnished the name of Kartouche and Zest.

Mr Bains has been involved with Zest - or its previous guises of Hollywood and Kartouche - from the very start.

In 1988, the Yorkshireman was part of a team which turned the decrepit maltings building into Ipswich's first major nightclub following an investment of £2.8million.