Club owner quits town after closure

BEDEVILLED by trouble and amid claim and counterclaim Zest nightclub has finally lost its fight to survive.Today, Kerpal Bains, proprietor of the former Ipswich nightspot which was shut down after the murder of Jimoh Plunkett in December, said he no longer had the stomach for the fight to reopen it.

BEDEVILLED by trouble and amid claim and counterclaim Zest nightclub has finally lost its fight to survive.

Today, Kerpal Bains, proprietor of the former Ipswich nightspot which was shut down after the murder of Jimoh Plunkett in December, said he no longer had the stomach for the fight to reopen it.

Mr Bains spent more than three hours in the witness box during an appeal hearing in a futile attempt to overturn its closure by the borough council's licensing committee.

After the failed appeal before Ipswich magistrates, the entrepreneur claimed his Princes Street club had been made a scapegoat for the series of killings which tarnished the town's image in December.

However, one of Ipswich's top police officers Superintendent Alan Caton, today refuted Mr Bains' claims.

He said: “The police have had some concern over a period of time regarding the increase in violence and disorder at the club.”

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In January, magistrates shut Zest indefinitely after hearing that not everyone was searched by a metal detector and questions were raised over the number of security staff on duty.

During the case it heard there were a very large number of offences and incidents linked to the nightspot between April and December 2006, many involving varying degrees of violence.

Mr Bains appealed against the decision last week in court and said he has spent between £30,000 and £35,000 in an abortive attempt to fight Zest's closure.

The club, which began as Hollywood from 1987-1999, before changing to Kartouche from 1999-2003 has had a troubled history.

Although many of the incidents were relatively minor, two resulted in murder.

Mr Bains stressed that over the years much had been done to improve security at the nightspot.

However, bad publicity has dogged the club.

In 2000 Phil Hoi Phat Lui, 24, of Nacton Road, Ipswich, was murdered by former bouncer Lewis Carroll after an attack which began at Kartouche.

Mr Hoi Phat Lui was attacked in the club around 11.50pm on August 14, before being set upon minutes later in the frenzied assault in Chancery Road early on August 15 which led to his death.

Carroll, 31, of Crocus Close, Ipswich, was jailed for life after being convicted of his murder. Toby Woods, of Cardiff, was convicted of violent disorder.

Mr Plunkett, 24, died on December 9 last year after being one of four people shot at Zest, while another was stabbed.

Police are still investigating his killing, although two men have been arrested on suspicion of murder.

KERPAL Bains today said he had no option, but to turn his back on Ipswich as he felt the authorities wanted him out of town.

The crunch came after a history of violence and disorder at the nightclub ended with the murder of Londoner Jimoh Plunkett.

Describing his club as a “scapegoat” after Mr Plunkett's death and the killings of five Ipswich women - Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls - whose deaths were unconnected with the Zest, Mr Bains said: “I am going to another town.

“At the end of the day the authorities have made up their minds, not withstanding the fact there was a terrible tragedy (at Zest).

“I don't necessarily agree with the findings of the licensing committee. The police could not reveal their full evidence, because of the murder inquiry taking place.

“We showed people were being searched, but regardless of what I think or believe, I'm fighting a large body here - the council, the police and the legal system. I'm never going to win this, no matter how much money I put into it.

“Firstly and most important is sadly someone has lost their life. But, according to police everything is being palmed on to me by them saying I should have done this and done that. They think I take this lightly, but it has affected me badly.

“The whole thing (the case to close Zest) was just a shambles. No matter what I did to try to prove things, it was beyond my control.”

He said over the years just under £2million has been invested in the club and added he was sad that 50 people were put out of work due to the nightspot's closure.

He was at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court for the appeal, but in the end it was to no avail.

Mr Bains said: “I gave evidence for about three-and-a-half hours, but the magistrates decided the failings were ours and that we did not search enough or take enough actions.”

However the nightclub boss still contests this pointing out the club had two metal detectors, a fingerprint identification information system, security on its front door linked to others by a radio system and all its exits were alarmed.

He said: “I could cry all day long, but after six months constant battling I really haven't got the stomach for it anymore.

“I'm moving on. I'm sad. I want to thank all the people who have supported me. I did my utmost to give them great entertainment over the years.”

SUPERINTENDENT Alan Caton, of Ipswich police said: “The police have had some concern over a period of time regarding the increase in violence and disorder at the club.

“Clearly the tragic events of December 8/9 led to greater scrutiny of the way the club was managed and run.

“As a result, the police felt it appropriate to close the premises in the first instance and then take it before the licensing committee.

Due to the evidence before the licensing committee, it felt it appropriate to revoke the club's licence which subsequently led to an appeal.

“Again all the evidence was put before magistrates and they uphold the decision.

“From the police perspective, we feel it was the right decision.”

Supt Caton said he was unable to make any comment about the ongoing investigation into Jimoh Plunkett's murder.

Ipswich Borough Council said although Zest's attempt to get its licence back had been denied, the owners of the building have applied for a licence in their own right.

A council spokesman said: “We are pleased that the court has upheld our decision to revoke the licence for Zest nightclub.

“The owners of the building have also applied for a separate licence and this could be passed on to a new tenant.

“We have granted this licence but there are a number of conditions the tenants would have to agree to before the club could re-open.”

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