Hipster beer pong bar prosecuted for ‘secret New Year party’ during Covid-19 lockdown

·3-min read
 (Met)
(Met)

The owner of a hipster “beer pong” bar is being prosecuted over claims of a secret New Year’s Eve party in its VIP lounge during lockdown.

Police officers staked out Pong London after receiving a tip-off of up to 40 people partying at the Kings Cross venue.

It is said guests were sneaking into the club through the fire exit, while police said they smelled cannabis when they eventually got into the VIP room inside.

Pong London promises punters it is “bringing good old fashioned beer pong into the digital modern age, and has an “intimate” basement bar which can be hired out for private events.

Owner Olawale Ogunye denies throwing a lockdown-breaking party, saying staff were just having complementary drinks after a shift cleaning the venue.

Sergeant Neil Fraser was among the police team called out to the Pentonville Road club on New Year’s Eve last year, when London was under a Tier 4 lockdown.

“We were advised that a call had been received stating that 40 persons were inside the venue partying. The persons were entering through the fire escape, behind the bus stop. The owner is letting people in when no cars are around watching,” he said.

Officers banged on the doors to no avail, but spotted up to 15 women “sneak out”, Westminster magistrates court was told. An officer eventually managed to get into the venue through an open fire exit.

“We entered the venue and found it in complete darkness and silent,” said Sgt Fraser.

“As soon as I approached the stairs to the basement, I noted the strong smell of cannabis. Officers found the lights and turned them on, allowing us to search the basement.

“Upon entering the VIP room at the back of the basement area, I saw two males and a female sitting inside. They were sat in silence and were not surprised in the slightest to see police.”

The court heard Pong London had already been issued with two £1,000 fines for breaking the Covid-19 restrictions, for serving alcohol without providing substantial meals and failing to take measures to ensure persons admitted are from a linked household.

In a letter to the court, Mr Ogunye insisted the police account of the incident on New Year was “hurtful, sad, and demotivating”.

“It is very hurtful and a huge shame to be treated this way just because of who I am,” he wrote.

“I never said, nor indicated, I was ever having a gathering for staff, nor any ‘parties’ in the premises.”

He added: “We had four or five of the staff/promoters who had been working together all through the pandemic going to clean the venue for us and while at it, we allowed some complementary beverages.

“It was NOT AN EVENT, NOR WAS IT A PARTY.”

The case was adjourned for a trial on November 9.

In a separate prosecution, Samson Pierre Dean, 37, has been fined £1,100 for joining a hot tub party at the Top Night Hotel on the Isle of Dogs last New Year.

Police found DJ decks and alcohol laid out in the room, rented through AirBnb, and saw “approximately fifteen individuals standing in a hot-tub”.

Fani Nicutu, 36, was caught hosting a “pregnancy party” on January 7 at his Abbeywood home.

“This was a total disregard for the rules that had been put in place and potentially endangered two large households with children and one with a child on the way,” PC Iain Thomson told the court, as Nicutu was also fined £1,100.

Rebecca Cowell, 26, from Woodford Green, was also fined £1,100 for attending a New Year party at a rented apartment in Canary Wharf.

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