straw that broke hacienda's back
Inspector Jones defends the decision to oppose The Hacienda's licence last July. The closure was two years in the making, he says. He and senior officers believed Manchester would be, and is, a better place without the club. It was having a bad effect on the city's image. Two years of covert drugs surveillance and a catalogue of reported and unreported violent altercations and assaults were weighing heavy on its survival. The final straw, says Inspector Jones, came when he and seven magistrates and another senior police officer, sitting in a minibus after a routine visit into the venue, witnessed a near fatal assault in the early hours of June 28th 1997. 18-year-old Andrew Delahunty was hit over the head from behind with what looked like a metal bar before being pushed into the path of an on-coming car. Delahunty sustained a fractured skull and spinal damage and was rushed to hospital. He now suffers from a speech impediment. The Hacienda management were quick to point out that when trouble kicked off in the club their security ejected a group of trouble-makers. It raises this question: should the club be held responsible for what happens if they return later, they ask? In effect, that a club must essentially 'police the streets'? The Hacienda management also strenuously deny allegations that their door staff were out of control, or in any way running the club. They added that if the police had a problem with one of their doormen they should have dealt with it through Door Safe - a city council and GMP-sponsored registration scheme specifically launched to police them. Inspector Jones is adamant that now new owners for the venue have finally been found, they will not employ doormen from Manchester. "Otherwise they're going to come with the baggage of all the local villains and gangsters, whoever you pick. You can fly them in from Brussels for all I care, just as long as they're from outside Manchester." But as one ex-bouncer points out, clubs have no choice but to employ "colourful" local characters if the police do not directly get involved on their doors. "Who else is going to stand on the firing line?" he questions. "You've got all these lunatics going out, who's going to control them and stop them getting in? Not some goodie-two-shoes who's got a bit of reputation in some small mill town." fear of the future
MEANWHILE, the prognosis for Manchester is not good. Not only do licensees and the police wholly distrust each other, but local gang politics are in dangerous turmoil. Rumblings from Salford indicate that the younger firm is beginning to feel they've outgrown the control of their peers and want a larger slice of the action. Conversely, Cheetham Hill has been united by the recent release from prison of a major figure. No one is sure whether that is good news or bad news, only that change means trouble. Meanwhile, in Moss Side drug revenues are drying up and younger 'trigger happy' gang members are getting desperate. Recently one even robbed an older member of the same gang at gun point - something previously unheard of. Rightly or wrongly, members of Doddinton and Gooch also believe they have been cut out of the lucrative job of club security and want the city "carved up" evenly. If they are serious the ensuing door war would make the last one look like a cat fight. Added into this is a hitherto unknown Asian factor. Bradford has long had gangs of the type Manchester is sadly famous for. Slowly troops and influence have been absorbed. No one knows how seriously these new crews take themselves or whether they would go head-to-head with the city's established players, but at least one recent shooting has been attributed to them. Outside of London, Manchester was the city that broke acid house and many of its subsequent incarnations to the nation. The legendary Hacienda Nude nights, Konspiracy, Most Excellent's pioneering Balearica, Madchester and the Happy Mondays, even Manumission, they all originated here. But with a gang problem as out of control as this, and despite the success against all odds of nights like Bugged Out, it's going to prove very difficult for Manchester to pioneer anything again.
© COPYRIGHT OLIVER SWANTON 1998