Police officers in London have allegedly told a bar owner he should not play a form of Jamaican music, which has been deemed “unacceptable” by the borough. Roy Seda, the owner of Dice Bar in Croydon, said he had been approached several times in the last year by officers urging him to stop playing bashment music, which includes chart-topping artists such as Sean Paul and Beenie Man. In an email sent to Seda last year, Sgt Michael Emery, a licensing officer in Croydon, is said to make reference to “what this borough finds unacceptable forms of music”. The police force has been accused of racial profiling by a black and minority ethnic (BME) forum for singling out and targeting Jamaican music. Bashment artists in the early 1990s were associated with homophobia but Seda said the genre had “come a long way” and entered the mainstream.
Despite complying with the officers’ requests, with Seda going as far as sacking a DJ for breaching the notional ban, Dice Bar is facing a review of its licence on the grounds it is linked to crime and disorder, the owner said. Seda said there had been about 20 arrests outside his bar in the last 15 months, during which time tens of thousands of customers had passed through the door. The Metropolitan police said it would not comment until after the review hearing.
Seda, a former solicitor, said: “We’ve lost business. We’ve had some birthday bookings that have cancelled when they’ve asked if we play bashment and we’ve had to tell them no.”
He said some customers have misinterpreted the ban as a racist move on his part. “They’re in the bar and asking can you play bashment and when we tell them no, they think I’m a racist.”
Police officers first raised concerns about bashment more than a year ago when the licensing officer, PC Darren Rhodes, advised Seda to remove the term from a flyer that also advertised music genres including R&B, garage, house and hip-hop.
“We had to develop an official policy,” Seda explained. “I had to sit down with managers and decide how we could make this an official policy as the police were so forceful about us not playing bashment."In June last year, he received the email from Emery, which said: “You have been given a substantial amount of support from your security provider and PC Rhodes has given you an endless amount of support and advice in relation to promoters, particularly what this borough finds unacceptable forms of music.
My office has received information that you are not complying with acceptable forms of music.”
Seda has placed a sign next to the DJ decks reminding artists not to play bashment and asked DJs to sign contracts vowing not to play the genre.
“I had to sack a DJ who played bashment after that,” Seda explained. “It was hard to do.”
The alleged ban has prompted criticism from Nero Ughwujabo, the chief executive of Croydon BME Forum.
He said: “Singling out Caribbean and specifically Jamaican music as being associated with crime and disorder is profiling – which is unacceptable.”
The Met police and Croydon council, the licensing authority, are set to clash over the force’s attempts to stop Dice Bar from playing bashment as a ban could only be established with the permission of the licensing committee. Furthermore, the council said music type is never a consideration when determining licences.
A council spokesman said: “Neither the council or the licensing committee has a policy banning any particular kind of music. The committee is an independent body that makes all licensing decisions. These decisions are based on the four licensing objectives, not on music types.”
Andy Tarrant, the Croydon borough commander for the Met, said: “The Dice Bar is potentially subject to a licensing review by the council and therefore it would be inappropriate for us to comment until after that hearing.”
A spokesman for the Met said: “We have submitted a request to the London borough of Croydon for a review of the Dice Bar.
We have not requested a ban on any type of music at this venue. However, the licensee volunteered not to host bashment music events in order to tackle the issues in his venue and make it safer.
It would be inappropriate for us to comment further until after the licensing hearing as this is the right and proper place for these issues to be aired.”