Vout-O-Reenees club in English Martyrs Church licence dispute

An East London church group have accused a club operating in the crypt below of running “sacrilegious events” where a man was allegedly “dressed in underpants and a dog collar”.

Vout-O-Reenees is a private members club based in the crypt of the Roman Catholic Church of the English Martyrs in Whitechapel.

The venue, owned by Sophie Parkin Vink, showcases art, film and live performances. She wants to extend its sale of alcohol until 1am on Thursdays and 2am on Fridays and Saturdays to try and make up for a loss in profit as a result of Covid.

Ms Parkin Vink said in a Tower Hamlets Council licensing meeting last Thursday (October 27), that there is no evidence of sacrilegious themes on her social media. She also contested claims that it was people from her club that were littering outside the church.

East London Advertiser: The venue is accessed through a stairwell. Photo: Google Street View

Meanwhile, a catholic prayer group called The Fame of Love Praying Group is furious that the club has been allowed to run for this long, arguing it hosts events offensive to religious beliefs. 

The group’s secretary, referred to only as Mr Melian, said the group will continue to protest outside the venue. He told the committee: “We will continue exercising our lawful right to protest in front of the premises every time they have done an event which includes sacrilegious – objectively sacrilegious – they are showing Mickey Mouse crucified as an image.

“We will continue putting pressure on protesting but eventually this could lead to even more friction.”

The group first complained about the venue’s activities after spotting an event called ‘Church of the Bleeding Gums’ which it claimed advertised an “offensive” flyer showing Mickey Mouse on a cross, according to council documents. Event organisers allegedly told one of the priests that the advert was a “truly one-off faux-pass” but Fame of Love demanded the event be cancelled, documents added.

David Cleghorn, who also attends the Catholic church, called the behaviour of the crypt’s partygoers “totally unacceptable”. He wrote in a council document: “One Saturday night, a male dressed in underpants and a dog collar around his neck was running up and down the stairs of the venue screaming. He then sat on the steps outside the church while a girl took pictures of him posing provocatively outside the church, they both seemed to think this was funny.

“Their behaviour was totally unacceptable and I suggest this premises licence is cancelled all together because the person in charge of this venue clearly doesn’t give a damn and is never available to speak to.”

Mr Cleghorn, who was also present at the meeting, said: “If you look at the social media accounts, you will see the pictures which have been posted by the people attending these premises.

“There’s one picture of someone showing their bottom, standing on the stairs outside the church. This person was a member of one of the parties that was taking place inside this premises.

“This is behaviour that is totally unacceptable, there’s children living in the houses directly opposite.”

He accused revellers of leaving glasses and bottles of alcohol  on the church’s steps and that he could not get in touch with Ms Parkin Vink. Both the prayer group and the local resident have called for Vout-O-Reenees’ licence to be cancelled altogether.

Ms Parkin Vink said: “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about people who get things from other places close by and leave them there. There is nothing which is sacrilegious on my social media and that’s all I can control. I can’t control the rest of the world.”

Cllr Peter Golds, who was chairing the licensing meeting, said the committee will make a decision in five days’ time. He said: “The two matters that concern us are the matter of antisocial behaviour on the steps of the church – photographs of people mooning and detritus left around.

“And the fact that Mr Cleghorn had tried to speak to the person in charge and was unable to do so.”

The council decided to adjourn the meeting and will reach a decision in five days’ time. The Local Democracy Reporting Service has contacted the council for an update on its final decision.


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