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Manchester: ‘Oldest gay bar’ loses license after immigration raid

Image caption, Napoleons describes itself as the “oldest gay venue in Europe”

  • Author, By Ethan Davies and Jonny Humphries
  • Role, BBC news

A bar describing itself as the ‘oldest gay venue in Europe’ lost its license after an immigration raid.

The owner of Napoleons, on Bloom Street in Manchester’s Gay Village, was also fined £90,000.

Immigration officials went to the counter on February 29 and found four people working on visitor visas, a licensing hearing was told this week.

The committee also heard complaints about vermin and overflowing bins outside the hall.

‘Rats, pigeons and vermin’

The fine was imposed for employing two people who had no right to work in Britain, Azima Sultana, from the Home Office, told the Manchester City Council committee.

PC Alan Isherwood, from Greater Manchester Police (GMP), said there was “a history” of such things happening at the site.

PC Isherwood said there were issues with camera coverage, with staff unable to operate the system during the February 29 visit and others in March and May.

Neighbors had been complaining about a shared garden “overflowing rubbish attracting rats, pigeons and vermin” for about two years.

Sarah Taylor, representing neighboring Sackville House, claimed a fire escape route had been blocked, while council licensing officer Joe Robinson also claimed internal “emergency exits had been blocked”.

‘Clear lack of responsibility’

Napoleons representative Rebecca Lowe said many of the issues relating to the yard had been resolved and staff would be retrained in fire safety.

A new CCTV system had been installed at a cost of £7,000, she added.

“I think it’s fair to say that GMP wouldn’t be here if there weren’t immigration violations,” she said during the town hall committee meeting.

“We would say that we are here prematurely and that the revocation of the permit is a response to something that has not yet been proven.

“If the license is revoked and (the owner) loses months of business that she cannot recover (from), that would not be proportionate.”

Panel legal adviser Laura Raine said: “The committee has considered all options available to them today, but the main reasons (for withdrawal) are continued breaches of terms, illegal employees and a civil penalty, no management, clear lack of responsibility, and a clear lack of training.”

Napoleons, which opened in 1941, can no longer serve alcohol.

The bar is currently owned by Napoleon HL Ltd, with company director Guixiang Liu registered as the designated supervisor of the premises.

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