The O2 Academy Brixton has had its licence suspended after two people died in a crush and others were injured at the south London venue.
Fans attending a gig by the Afrobeats singer Asake were trapped in a crowd surge outside last Thursday night when a large number of people tried to enter the venue, leading to two deaths. A third person is still in a critical condition and eight others needed hospital care.
The venue is closed, and Lambeth councillors suspended its licence until 16 January, when a full hearing will take place. Five shows will be cancelled as a result.
Mahamed Hashi, Lambeth’s cabinet member for safer communities, said: “A tragic incident has happened in our borough and we are dealing with its devastating impact on our communities. Our thoughts are with those who have suffered, especially the families and friends of Rebecca Ikumelo and Gaby Hutchinson, who have tragically lost their lives.”
Asake and a staff member tell the crowd the show has been stopped. Photograph: @seunomis/Twitter
The Metropolitan police asked the council on Tuesday to undertake a fast-track summary review of the O2 Academy Brixton, indicating that the force considered the venue to be “associated with serious crime or serious disorder”.
During the council’s licensing committee meeting, the Met said there had been a similar crush during a concert by Naira Marley, another Afrobeats singer, in 2020 when concerns were raised about the strength of the front doors.
Stephen Walsh KC, representing the Academy Music Group, said the O2 Academy was “a responsible and experienced operator who works in close co-operation with the authorities” and that since the venue had voluntarily closed a temporary suspension was unnecessary.
It is understood he said it was “far too early” to point the finger of blame, but that the venue recognised “the gravity of the events” and was conducting an internal investigation.
Councillors determined that since the voluntary closure was not enforceable by law, and that although the facts of what happened on the night were not yet clear, there remained risks to public safety “as a consequence of, in particular, serious disorder arising from a lack of crowd control at the front doors” if the venue opened without new crowd control procedures in place.
In the application for the summary review, the Met said its officers had found that security staff had “completely lost control of the situation” when they arrived at the venue.
The force said that owing to the “extremely serious nature of the incident”, it had launched a “large and complex investigation”, and it requested that the venue have its licence temporarily suspended while officers established what failings had led to the incident and what could be done to prevent its repetition.
As part of the criminal investigation, specialist officers are reviewing CCTV and phone footage, speaking to witnesses, carrying out forensic examinations and reviewing photos, videos and information submitted online by members of the public.
In a statement, Lambeth councillors said they were “determined that answers must be found as to why these awful events occurred” through an “urgent, in-depth review” of whether the venue was meeting the legal conditions for its licence, including public safety arrangements.
The incident was initially blamed on hundreds of people turning up without tickets, with an announcement that “3,000 people have broken the door outside” when Asake was forced to end the gig after just two songs.
However, witness accounts have raised serious questions about security at the venue and an alleged heavyhanded police response, which is under review by the Met’s directorate of professional standards.
The councillors said: “This review will be part of ongoing efforts to seek answers and ensure such an incident never happens again.”
The O2 Academy Brixton has been approached for comment.