REPORT

Aquila says it’s buying a club… but the club says no

By James Cook

Embattled nightclub promoter Aquila London Events is asking young customers for investment to buy a nightclub after at least one prominent London venue has dissociated itself from the company. The business plan Aquila is circulating claims to offer student investors “vast profits” – yet the venue they say they are purchasing is unaware of the plan to buy them.

After The Kernel exposed Aquila in November for running a series of dodgy competitions using multiple fake Facebook and Tinder profiles, a public relations nightmare began for the London club promoters.

Tweets from Made in Chelsea stars that promoted the events were deleted and hundreds of wronged clubbers took to Twitter to express their outrage, with many relieved to finally see our coverage of what they called a long-running “scam”.

Self-styled anti-Aquila vigilantes began a furious social media campaign against the scammers.

Multiple London venues reviewed their relationship with the company after our revelations that spam messages sent out through fake profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Tinder and email all informed the recipient that they had won a “runner-up prize”.

Prizes were rarely forthcoming or as advertised, and the company was accused of “bait and switch” tactics to lure punters in to its “glamorous” events.

Desperation

At least one notable venue has cut ties with Aquila after receiving complaints from customers. Aquila London Events is now going to drastic lengths to ensure that its nights continue elsewhere, emailing everyone signed up to the mailing list for their student nights, asking for money.

Soliciting investment in early-stage companies from inexperienced investors is illegal. To receive direct solicitation, such as Aquila’s email pitch, you must be a high net worth individual or work in a competent field.

The following email, which has been sent to hundreds of their prospective customers, promises “vast profits” from an “outrageously profitable venture”. Aquila wants its customers to invest in an Aquila nightclub.

The email makes the extraordinary claim that investors will see “return on investment within 12 months” in an apparent guarantee of return.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 00.35.59

Best-laid plans

Documents have been passed to The Kernel that detail Aquila’s planned  venture. The company’s business plan reveals that they are attempting to raise money to purchase Love & Liquor, a Kilburn nightclub. The venue is part of the Columbo Group, the same company that owns XOYO, a Shoreditch nightclub that continues to hold Aquila’s regular parties.

Love & Liquor hasn’t been well-received by clubbers in the past, averaging 1.5 out of 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor.

loveliquorslider.jpg

Love & Liquor has repeatedly denied any knowledge of a deal with Aquila and any connection with the struggling events company. The club’s manager told The Kernel that it was the first he had heard of the proposition.

The club went on to deny that Aquila had ever staged an event on its premises and insisted there was “no association” between it and Aquila.

As part of their new business plan, Aquila lists many London clubs that they claim to be currently operating in. Many of the venues mentioned in the business plan closed months ago. One of the clubs mentioned as currently working with Aquila is Proud Camden, which strongly denies that Aquila operates there.

“They do not operate in Proud Camden and haven’t for over 9 months,” a spokesman said. “We used to host their night but didn’t like the way they operated or the ‘competitions’ … [We] don’t trust or like them and kicked them out for that reason. We asked them to leave … as it wasn’t good for our reputation.”

Love and Liquor Investment Proposal

Mysterious accounts

Another document sent out by Aquila through their mailing list is a current profit and loss statement for Love & Liquor as well as Aquila’s forecasted profit and loss for the venue in the twelve months following purchase.

With Aquila promising student clubbers “vast profits” and “return on investment within 12 months”, these accounts are a vital part of the business plan – but Love & Liquor say the document is falsified. When we asked the manager of Love & Liquor to verify the document’s accuracy, he replied: “These are not our accounts.”

Current and Forecasted P & L Love and Liquor (3)

Hack job

In a last-ditch attempt to salvage its reputation, Aquila hasn’t just set its eyes on its own venue, it has also decided to generate some publicity of its own. In a post on the little-known blog “Tara Magazine“, Aquila’s in-house journalist Janet Jones has shared 22 photos provided by the company.

Referring to the television show Made in Chelsea, Jones gushes over the events held by Aquila. “Honestly before attending an Aquila Event I genuinely believed all of the stuff that happens on the show was put on for entertainment purposes!

“However, after going to the Aquila nights…I have been converted! It’s the one night that I know is filled with celebrities, alcohol and is topped with a bit of drama… I don’t think I could ask for anything better!”

Tara Magazine is a small blog used by companies to promote their services and sneak in links back to their site. For example, this post about television shows with secrets manages to crowbar in two links back to Bell Canada, the Canadian phone operator.

The Kernel posed as a fake fashion company and emailed the editor of Tara Magazine asking to write a self-promotional article to be published on the site. They told us that it sounded “great”, implying that they really will publish anything.

Aquila London did not respond to a request for comment.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated for clarity.