City center bar forced to shut down for one month after complaints as former boss steps in

A Manchester city center bar will be forced to shut down for one month after complaints of repeated rule-breaking. But a former boss is stepping in to save it.

Tribeca in Sackville Street has had its license suspended meaning the premises will have to close for a month starting in a few weeks’ time. The bar on the edge of Manchester’s Gay Village has been the subject of noise complaints, Covid rule-breaking and a police incident among other allegations.

Together with the police, Manchester council officers called for the bar’s license to be revoked claiming that promises to improve had been broken. But an owner has now stepped forward in a bid to save the bar from closure.

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Councilors on the licensing panel said the suspension would allow time for a ‘strong management team’ to be recruited and to put new measures in place. Explaining the decision at a town hall hearing on Tuesday (April 19), licensing chair Paul Andrews said the panel came ‘very, very, very close’ to completely closing down the premises – but they decided to give the bar another chance.

He said: “We are giving Tribeca the chance to get things back on track to where you used to be which is why we’ve decided not to revoke [the licence]. Best of luck for the future – but please don’t come in front of the licensing panel again.”

Police were called to the premises in January after reports of a ‘very large crowd’ outside with scenes turning ‘ugly’ as officers tried to disperse them – but staff said the early closure of the bar was caused by a ‘blocked drain’. Numerous noise complaints have also been made by residents of Regency House with claims of loud music playing past midnight and as late as 4am.

Council officers claimed that Tribeca regularly breached the conditions on its license – including not having enough security staff on the door and not having adequate access to CCTV footage – since a change of management in 2019. Hazel O’Keefe, who took over the premises months before the pandemic, also admitted to presenting a forged document to the police after she ‘panicked’.

She faced a fine for failing to remove people from the premises before 10pm against the Covid rules at the time which has now risen to more than £2,000. And there was also a report of ‘lock-ins where drug use and drug dealing’ would take place on the premises – allegations which O’Keefe has denied.

She said: “The venue I run is what Manchester should have. It’s been an unprecedented horrifically difficult two years. I just ask for any opportunity to rectify it.”

Having previously served as an events manager at the premises, O’Keefe was in the process of purchasing the lease before the pandemic hit in early 2020. She struggled to pay the bills, became homeless and at one point was living in the premises itself before the fire service advised her to stop sleeping there.

And the tragic death of bar manager Aaron Jarvis, who died in a three-vehicle crash in Whitefield last year, left her feeling unable to leave home for weeks. Lee Montgomery, who ran the bar until 2019, has been the leaseholder since 2010 and has now stepped in as the designated premises supervisor while he recruits new managers to run the premises while O’Keefe manages events.

Tributes for bar manager Aaron Jarvis outside Tribeca

Representing Greater Manchester Police, PC Alan Isherwood raised concerns that the same staff would continue to be ‘pulling the strings’ at the premises. Manchester council officer Margaret Lewis, who requested that the license is reviewed, called for a ‘complete change’ with a ‘new regime’ put in place.

The three councilors on the licensing panel returned from their deliberation with a ‘split decision’ which means they did not all agree on the final outcome. But the panel decided to suspend the license for one month which will start in 21 days, allowing the premises to appeal before the order comes into effect.

Speaking after the hearing, O’Keefe said that anyone who has a booking at the premises during the period of suspension will be given an immediate refund.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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