A nightclub has closed with immedate effect after being blamed for the death of an amateur footballer.
Chicago’s in Rye Market, Stourbridge, has shut for good, bosses have announced.
The decision comes weeks after the venue was targeted by vandals following the trial of teenager Kobe Murray, who was cleared of the murder and manslaughter of Ryan Passey .
The 24-year-old, who played for the youth team at Stourbridge FC, died after being stabbed in the heart while on the dancefloor in August 2017.
Mr Murray was carrying a knife and said he accidentally stabbed Mr Passey as he fended off an attack. He was cleared by a jury.
Club owners The Deltic Group has now said it was shutting down the nightspot – with the loss of 18 full and part-time jobs – after it was criticised by the victim’s family over its search policies.
More than 3,500 people had signed a petition calling for the closure of the venue, which opened in 2012.
Peter Marks, chief executive of The Deltic Group, said: “It is a sad indictment of our society when we look to blame anyone apart from the person who brandished the knife.
“We are not the heartless business we have been portrayed to be.
“Everyone who worked at Chicago’s and for the wider company remain devastated by Ryan’s untimely death, as well as by the shocking outcome of the recent court case, which saw the accused walk free.
“We cannot comprehend the impact these events have had on Mr Passey’s family and friends.”
He added: “Chicago’s never had a chance to defend itself due to the legal case and was consistently misrepresented by many.
“Until that tragic night, the club had an unblemished licensing record of providing a fun and safe night out for the people in Stourbridge.
“As a responsible operator running a business in a generally safe town, at no point did we break any laws, or breach our licence conditions set by the police and local authority, which required us to search a proportion of our customers entering the premises, which we did on the night in question.
“Putting the blame on a single venue is not the answer.
“There is no doubt that our decision to close will have an impact on the wider health of the local late-night economy, which of late has been a lot quieter.
“Whilst some may view the night time economy as a nuisance, in our experience, a town needs a balanced economy with investment in both the traditional daytime activities and those night-time offers that give a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.
“The closure of an anchor business, such as Chicago’s, rarely benefits the town in the long term, quite the reverse.
“We are very sad to be leaving Stourbridge and would like to take this opportunity to thank our hard-working team and our loyal customers for their support over the years.”