Bear Club patrons react with fury over ‘gagging’ threat

The Bear Club, Mill Yard
The Bear Club, Mill Yard

Jazz fans have reacted with fury at the threat that a popular Luton venue could be ‘gagged’.

Luton Borough Council has been slammed for its preparations to serve a noise abatement notice on The Bear Club – which is sited just metres from a taxpayer-funded outdoor music stage.

Luton Borough Council is constucting an outdoor music stage just a short walk from the Bear Club

Luton Borough Council is constucting an outdoor music stage just a short walk from the Bear Club

The club, in Mill Yard, has been told that it will be served with a notice due to complaints from ‘one or two’ nearby flats of alleged ‘excessive noise’.

Club owner Justin Doherty has said that the notice is “essentially a gagging order” as the venue’s events would “without doubt be in further breach of their conditions and liable for further action, prosecution and fines of up to £20,000”.

News of the move has angered hundreds of patrons who have flocked to the club since it was opened in September 2014.

A petition which calls on the council to “urgently reconsider its position” has attracted more than 2,250 signatures.

The Bear Club has proved popular since it opened in September 2014

The Bear Club has proved popular since it opened in September 2014

Many have also questioned the wisdom of the order, given that LBC is currently building an outdoor music stage a short distance from the club on the corner of Guildford Street and Bute Street.

Ben Hodson, co-founder of a Hat Factory based creative agency, told the Luton News: “The stage will be fantastic if it gets used but it is utterly ridiculous if they are going to stop noise in the area.

“Luton wants more things like this and we are all with Justin.

“The council has been talking about the creative quarter in that area for a while and there is no reason they should be slowing it down.”

A petition to 'save The Bear Club' has been signed more than 2,250 times

A petition to 'save The Bear Club' has been signed more than 2,250 times

Petition author James Ashby added: “It is crucial that LBC recognises not only the popularity of the venue, but the potential The Bear Club’s success has to attract other creative start ups in the town centre.

“The Luton nightlife scene had been in a steady, dismal decline until recently.

“The Bear Club has been a wonderful success story and had drawn people and praise to our much-maligned town.”

The club will remain open as planned until midnight on Saturday, November 14, but will close thereafter.

This is with the exception of gigs on November 27 (The Partisans), December 5 (Tina May: Centenary of Edith Piaf) and December 19 (CC Smugglers)– which owner Justin has said he will stage “at the risk of further damnation”.

He admitted that he has been ‘overwhelmed’ with the vocal opposition to the abatement notice.

He said: “I shouldn’t be surprised - Luton, and the wider reaches, have responded to the club with such passion and commitment since we opened in 2014. It was built by Luton, for Luton.”

He added: “We shall make a plan when we know more.

“The council is responding to complaints, that is their task, and when we have the notice in our hands we’ll know more, and can make a plan from there.

“There’s still time and there’s still a fight.”

An LBC spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on individual cases that could be subject to legal action.

“When we are satisfied that a noise nuisance exists, we have a duty to serve an abatement notice on the person responsible for the nuisance.

“The notice requires the person responsible to stop causing the nuisance.

“Failure to comply with such a notice can attract prosecution and a fine.

“Luton Borough Council’s environmental protection team routinely investigates noise complaints, including from neighbours, industry, construction sites and commercial premises.”

> To sign the petition log on to www.change.org/p/luton-borough-council-save-the-bear-club-and-live-music-in-luton-town-centre