Since the doors of London’s clubs, cafes and late-night venues were closed to help curb the spread of Covid-19, Westminster Council’s City inspectors have been working tirelessly with the police to ensure public safety by closing down noisy parties, gatherings, and pop-up nightclubs which clearly breach national restrictions and are unsafe. Despite the vast majority of residents and businesses following the rules, unfortunately there has been a number of incidents where a minority of individuals are flouting rules and putting themselves and others at risk.
As millions of people and businesses across London make continued sacrifices to help stop the spread of Covid-19 this winter, that small number of rule-breakers has driven a rise in illegal gatherings and pop-up nightclubs across the city, sometimes with hundreds of partygoers cramming into tiny residential properties, flying in the face of essential public health guidance and putting local communities at risk. Even during the height of national lockdowns, some residents across Westminster have found themselves neighbouring booming DJ sets, smoke machines, unlicensed bars and entrance queues, often taking place in residential short-term-lets and other premises.
In a recent example of a swift and effective intervention, council officers were alerted to a premises in the early hours of Sunday 10th January where over 150 people were found gathering in a venue known as El Prince on Edgware Road, with loud music blaring and attendees entering into the building through rear fire doors. City Inspectors along with police officers entered the property to find people drinking, smoking and partying, complete with a DJ set and amps. There was very little sign of people wearing face coverings and no social distancing was taking place. Each attendee was presented with a £200 fine for a breach of Covid regulations, and the DJ was served with a £10k fine as well as having their music equipment seized by officers.
The council is also pursuing a venue closure notice, which would remove the opportunity for organisers to re-arrange future parties and gatherings as the rest of the country follows lockdown rules. A closure order for the venue means that the council can be effective in taking action, not only quickly responding to instances as they occur but putting strict measures in place to reduce the chances of future re-offence.
With regular community engagement, and the council’s 24/7 noise reporting system, reports of lockdown parties have been investigated swiftly by City Inspectors and police teams, where officers have dispersed attendees, served notices, and registered fines. Any essential follow-up is also made by the council’s outreach teams to contact property owners and put measures in place to stop future instances. The Council runs a twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week service, so is able to respond to incidents like the one that took place last weekend quickly, always working closely with our police partners. The Council won’t hesitate to take the strongest enforcement action available, in addition to any action that the police will take.
Cllr Heather Acton, Cabinet Member for Communities and Regeneration said:
“Ending unsafe parties and gatherings is a continued challenge for the council. We shall keep up our efforts to help curb the spread of Covid-19 across Westminster by stopping these illegal and downright dangerous events and we thank the public for reporting them and the police for their support.
“Not only can such gatherings cause disruption to the local community and fly in the face of all public health guidance, the intervention necessary puts our teams and police colleagues at risk of dangerous exposure at a time where we should all be keeping our distance.
“Residents should be assured that we will continue to exercise swift, effective action to deal with these parties and will take all steps needed to stop them happening in the future. Our simple message is, stick to the rules and keep everyone safe. Please do not even think about holding an event. Along with the police, our City Inspectors are out on the streets of Westminster at all times and will take the strongest action needed.”