A MAJOR police probe has led to the closure of a well-known Hampshire nightclub.

The Rhino Club has been shut down after police applied to have its licence withdrawn as a result of launching an investigation into alleged blackmail and false imprisonment centred on the venue.

It has emerged that officers made the application following an incident that happened at the Waterloo Terrace club which led to the arrests of three people connected with the nightspot.

The investigation relates to an incident at the club which is believed to have taken place when the club wasn’t open to the public.

Details of the suspected offences are not being disclosed by Hampshire police due to the sensitivity of the investigation but it is understood that no one needed medical attention as a result.

A police spokesman said that inquiries so far indicted the matter was contained to the venue and those connected with it and there was no risk to the public.

Officers confirmed a 70-year-old man from Romsey and a 42-year-old man from Southampton have been questioned on suspicion of blackmail, false imprisonment and assault.

A third man that was arrested by colleagues from the Metropolitan Police force in London has also been questioned in connection with the probe. All three have been released on bail.

Club owner Robin Felgate, 70, who has been associated with the club since 1977, confirmed he was one of the men arrested when the Daily Echo visited him at his home near Romsey.

He declined to comment on his arrest or closure of the club due to the ongoing police investigation.

The ensuing police investigation has led the force’s licensing department to apply to Southampton City Council to revoke the premises licence.

A letter was sent to the council’s licensing sub-committee by Superintendent James Fulton outlining the reasons why the club should no longer be allowed to trade.

During the hearing, that both press and public were banned from attending due to the police probe, members of the panel agreed that the licence should be withdrawn.

In a statement chairman Carole Cunio said that due to the “serious criminal allegations” and “likelihood of serious disorder at the premises involving persons concerned with the business conducted at those premises – including the premises licence holder”, the panel felt it necessary to revoke the licence.

The statement continues that in light of the evidence given, the sub-committee felt it had “no option” but to take away the club’s licence “in order to protect the public and those that might be caught in the crossfire as well as to address the risk of further incident at the premises”.

Can you help?

POLICE have released CCTV of men they want to speak to in connection with the false imprisonment and blackmail probe.

Anyone who recognises them or has information is asked to call Shirley CID on 101.

Committee paperwork shows police concern

AFTER the club’s licence was revoked owner Robin Felgate applied to change the Designated  Premises Supervisor (DPS) – the person responsible for the day to day running of the venue – after the previous DPS Satbir Giany resigned following its closure.

The application was to appoint a woman called Tanya Hayter to the role, but police objected to that after inquiries found that she was Robin Felgate’s niece.

Officers said they did not feel she was “strong enough” to carry out the responsibilities of running the club or far enough removed from the previous management.

In a report to the city council’s licensing sub-committee PC Sharon Conway said that the constabulary believed that the application was an attempt to “circumvent the decision to revoke the licence”.

The paperwork also named Ice Cold Management as the company that would take over as the  new licence holder.

The firm is listed at Companies House, and documents seen by the Daily Echo shows that it was set up in March, after the club’s closure, and lists Tanya Hayter as the sole director of the company.

The bid was subsequently withdrawn.

The papers to the committee also showed a previous link between the Rhino club and Richard Timson who was heavily criticised in a separate licensing report by police into the running of Club Regal in Eastleigh.

As reported by the Daily Echo last month, Hampshire police attempted to revoke the licence of that venue after they compiled a catalogue of incidents with evidence of drug taking and alleged violence by door staff.

In it they accused Mr Timson of being “prepared to sacrifice public safety” and “put people at risk” through “cost-cutting”.

Their report to Eastleigh Borough Council outlined Mr Timson’s “deliberate” attempts not to abide by the strict licensing rules.

The Rhino club papers show that Mr Timson was also once the DPS of the Pure venue, which was opened by the same management as the Rhino club which was next door.

In 2012 police had to visit the Pure venue and found it was also breaching its licensing agreement by operating as a bar and not as a restaurant for which it had been granted permission to open.

  • Additional reporting by Joe Curtis