Brixton businesses ‘worried’ as O2 Academy licence suspension hits takings

Businesses close to The O2 Academy Brixton have reacted with dismay to the suspension of its licence for three months after two people were killed in a crowd crush.

The stairs to the venue remain covered in floral tributes to security guard Gaby Hutchinson, 23, and Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, who died after ticketless fans tried to enter an Asake gig on December 15.

Aman Wold, owner of cafe bar Brixtonia, said the three month ban was “unnecessary” and would reduce his takings significantly.

He told the PA News Agency: “At the weekend, on Friday and Saturday night, a lot of us have definitely noticed the impact already. I would say without exaggeration that on Friday and Saturday we lose at least 25% or 30%.

“On the road you can see it is a lot quieter, especially on weekends. I think it is unnecessary.”

Brixton O2 Academy incident
Gaby Hutchinson who was named as the second person to have died after a crowd crush at the O2 Brixton Academy (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Nearby Japanese restaurant Sushi Revolution has also seen its custom fall and owner Tom Blackshaw said the venue’s closure was harming the local area.

He said: “It is not good timing to lose one of the big draws of people to this area with the cost of living and inflation at the same time.

“The quality of the acts you get there are first class and it will be missed until it comes back, but we’re obviously hoping it could come back and operate safely.”

He added: “When there is a concert on we get a nice number of 20 people in, all in groups of two. We like them because they come to eat quickly and then go straight away. It was good for us.”

Renato Carato is a front of house staff member at Greek eatery Mikos, which he said was missing out on £1,000 it made every night from revellers heading to and from the Academy.

Brixton O2 Academy incident
Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, who died following a crowd crush outside an Asake concert at the O2 Academy Brixton (Family handout/PA)

“When it was open, a lot of people would come after the concerts but now it has closed, not many customers come at night,” he told PA.

“I am worried about the next three months because it will affect the business. So many people used to come before and after the shows when they were going in and coming out.

“We just have to keep going, especially because we are a new place. We have only been open five months.”

At Brixton Kebab, a takeaway just 20 metres down the road from the O2, staff said the whole of Brixton was struggling because of the venue’s closure.

Brixton O2 Academy incident
Crowds outside the Academy on the night Asake performed (@rofiatcc/PA)

A waiter, who asked not to be named, said: “When the shows are on, it is really busy and all of Brixton gets loads of business. But because of the closure it has been quiet.

“About 6,000 people come to the gigs and we are always very, very busy and we could make up to £2,000 a day. It is packed, all the restaurants are packed, all the places are packed and the streets are packed. There is a very big queue here.

“It should re-open. It is good for all the people and it brings business to this place.”