THE owners of the Hanger 13 nightclub in Ayr, scene of three

drug-related deaths, have abandoned their fight to keep the venue open.

McCall's Entertainment Ltd said yesterday it had withdrawn an appeal

challenging a decision last year by Kyle and Carrick licensing committee

to suspend the venue's licence. The firm said it was unable to pursue

the action on cost grounds but faces a legal bill running into tens of

thousands of pounds.

The venue on the Ayr seafront had remained open after an appeal was

lodged, in spite of the controversy surrounding the deaths of three

young men last year. All had taken the drug ecstasy.

In May, Mr John Nisbet, 18, of New Cumnock, and Mr Andrew Dick, 19, of

Glasgow, died from the effects of taking ecstasy at a rave event in the

club. In August, Mr Andrew Stoddart, 20, of Rigside, Lanarkshire, died

in similar circumstances.

Following a fatal accident inquiry in February, Sheriff Neil Gow, QC,

warned of the effects of the ''leisure drug'', saying: ''A dance with

ecstasy can lead to a dance with death.''

While he laid no particular blame at the door of the club's

management, the sheriff called for a strong Government lead on tackling

drug abuse.

Mr Desmond Cheyne, QC, acting for the club's operator, Mrs Christine

Ridha, told Ayr Sheriff Court that a decision by the licensing board

earlier this year to refuse a late-night licence meant the firm's appeal

had become academic. He said his clients had decided to call it a day so

as not to inconvenience the court.

Last night, there was a mixed reaction to the closure. Some claimed a

much-loved Ayr landmark and a popular venue had been forced to close

unnecessarily. Others breathed a sigh of relief.

Mrs Ridha said she had been a victim of circumstances. While she had

held every faith in the success of the company's appeal, she said that

the legal bid had been withdrawn over the issue of costs. The club's 40

staff will now lose their jobs.

She said: ''I'm extremely disappointed. I've had people who come to

the club on the phone in tears because it's closing down. Shutting us

down will not get rid of the drugs problem. It's a problem in society

which everybody knows about. We tried to deal with it by having

paramedics on duty and giving education to those who were tempted.''

Mr Phil Gallie, MP for Ayr, said: ''The closure of the Pavilion

Ballroom and Hanger 13 means that a cross-section of the community are

deprived of a decent venue. The Pavilion was also used for ballroom

dancing as well as a rave venue. It is a loss to Ayr as a whole.''

In contrast, Mr George Foulkes, MP for Carrick Cumnock and Doon

Valley, said he was pleased the appeal had been dropped. He added:

''However, we must not be fooled into thinking that this solves the drug

problem. A great deal needs to be done in terms of police action and