EXCLUSIVE: Controversial nightclub in Digbeth to reopen under new name and new owners

Plans to resurrect the former Rainbow nightclub and outdoor arena in the heart of Digbeth under new owners have been given the go-ahead, despite initial police objections.

The new club will be christened The Mill and will operate alongside neighbouring Digbeth Arena. Both will be under the ownership of international promoters MJR Group.

Today the Group confirmed it had successfully applied for a drinks and entertainment licence for the indoor club and has already reopened the outdoor music space formerly known as Rainbow Arena, now called Digbeth Arena, with a host of big name acts lined up for summer shows.

The former Rainbow nightclub, in Lower Trinity Street, had its licence controversially revoked by Birmingham City Council in November last year following two drug-related deaths in two years.

The closure prompted a citywide campaign to challenge the ruling, including a crowdfunding bid to pay for a judicial review.

But earlier this year owner Lee McDonald decided to relinquish his portfolio of Birmingham club venues to MJR Group.

The application was due to be heard by Birmingham City Council’s licensing committee today – but at the 11th hour it was withdrawn from the agenda.

Today an MJR spokesman said the application had been agreed on Friday after further talks with police and environmental health officials resulted in them withdrawing their objections.

The application had asked for a licence to open the new-look venue for live music and club nights until 2am, Sunday to Wednesday, and until 3am Thursday to Saturday, as well as an option to open until 5.30am on 12 nights a year.

Police and environmental health officials had originally both objected on the grounds the club would add to crime, disorder and public nuisance in Digbeth.

They highlighted that Digbeth has a ‘special status’ designed to protect residents and clubgoers, which means any new applications for licences within the Digbeth area must demonstrate that they will not add to crime, disorder and public nuisance.

Seeking to open until the early hours seven nights a week meant the applicants were not mindful of those restrictions, said the formal response from West Midlands Police.

The location has had a chequered history. Hailed as one of the city’s best club venues, it has been hit by a series of high profile incidents, including the deaths of two young clubgoers in drugs-related incidents.

Today nearby business owners supported the reopening plan.

Resident and business owner Ruth said:

“We are happy to see the club reopen. Many young people are attracted by it and would also be my customers.

“I think young people get drugs from all sorts of places, which couldn’t be blamed on the owners of the club. I have been here for seven and a half years and have never worried about my safety.”

Ash Jassi, whose shop is next to the club, said violence and drug issues happened in most clubs and it had been unfair to single out the Rainbow venues for closure.

“The nightclub attracts thousands of people and bring trade to the place.”

Cindy Lau, a Digbeth resident, said the nightclub scene was important and part of the atmosphere of the area.

“It’s a really cool area! We really like the range of nice independent pubs here. I know it’s a bit rough around the edges, with derelict buildings and empty plots of space where rubbish piles up, but generally it’s quiet and nobody hassles you.”

Another Digbeth resident, who did not want to be named, said he enjoyed living in the heart of such a vibrant area.

“It may seem rough, with the graffiti on the walls, and you get some idiots – but it’s not all the time…it’s a developing area, with secure living areas. I haven’t had any serious incidents really. Walking past this club venue is one of my routes when going home from the city centre – I try to avoid groups of men being loud, they sometimes randomly shout things at you, but other than that my opinion is it is not too bad.”

In a statement today MJR Group said:

“The MJR Group are delighted that through positive and engaging communication with the Birmingham Responsible Authorities, and the hard work of all involved, we have been granted the license for 29 Lower Trinity Street.

“After the recent success of our Britrock Must Be Destroyed concert in the Digbeth Arena, and the acceptance of our licence application, we are excited to take the next steps and become a valued member of the vibrant and innovative community of Digbeth.”

He added: “The welcome and support we have received from surrounding businesses, who are producing excellent entertainment, creative and hospitality experiences, has been tremendous and The MJR Group looks forward to bringing unique and varied concerts and events to the area.

“We will be issuing a more expansive release later about our plans for the new event space and upcoming events at the Digbeth Arena.”

Digbeth Arena. Photo by MJR Group.

Under the Skyline Series banner, upcoming Digbeth Arena shows include James Arthur on 25 August; Texas and Imelda May on 1 September; The The on 7 September; and Garbage on 8 September, with more announcements expected soon.

Additional live reporting by Tianying Zhang and Zheng Xue

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