Nightclub outside where Durham uni student died will not have licence revoked following review

Olivia Burt's parents have described her as 'a wonderful young woman'.
Olivia Burt's parents have described her as 'a wonderful young woman'.

A nightclub, outside where a Durham University student died earlier this year, will not be forced to close.

Olivia Burt, 20, from Hampshire, suffered fatal head injuries in an incident involving a safety barrier outside Missoula nightclub, in the Walkergate area of the city, on February 7.

Following a review by Durham County Council’s Statutory Licensing Sub-Committee today, it will not be made to shut or significantly amend its opening hours.

However, councillors did rule that it should take up a new ‘operational plan’ agreed with Durham Constabulary, which had requested the panel investigate on the basis of ‘public safety’ and ‘prevention of crime and disorder’.

Speaking on behalf of the force, solicitor Chris Southey said: “The death of any young person can be very shocking and questions are asked about what caused it, with a view, sometimes, to finding a scapegoat or to find a solution in the future.

“There is a danger that hindsight can be applied sloppily.

“In this case it’s evident that certain processes at Missoula may be reviewed or improved.

“But that doesn’t mean that if the changes had been in place all would have been well or that no one ever again will suffer death inside or outside Missoula.”

The meeting heard concerns over crowd control at the bar had been raised early in 2017, but in the 12 months leading up to the death of Miss Burt no further problems had been recorded.

The business was praised for not having ‘shied away’ from the review.

But Mr Southey also said on the night there had been ‘ineffective communication’ between management and security staff from Phoenix Security, which provided security on the doors at Missoula and other nearby venues.

The bar is run by the Stonegate Pub Company (SPC), which has 700 venues visited by about 100m people every year, according to the firm, of which 160,000 head to Missoula.

Speaking on behalf of SPC, barrister Philip Colvin QC said: “My client is in the business of providing nights out that are fun and safe.

“The company has taken these events to heart and it has guided all its thinking since.

“As the police state, this is not to examine the cause of these events, assign blame or punish.

“It’s an on-going investigation with which my client is co-operating and this is forward planning to what needs to be done to achieve reasonable safety in the future.”

As well as making the nightclub take up the new operational plan, which has been agreed with police, councillors also barred it from having separate VIP access and inserted a provision in the licence banning under-16s from the premises after 10pm.

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service