London clubbers, Drum and Bass fans and music industry figures are reeling this morning in the wake of news that Fabric, London’s most iconic nightclub, has had its licence revoked.
The licence review by Islington Borough Council went on into the early hours of last night, with many fans of the club staying up to hear the fate of their beloved venue. Alan Millar, Chair of the Night Time Industries Association decried at the relentless interrogation by the review panel “In 25 years of attending licensing hearings I’ve never seen one like this. Trying to push revocation for Fabric”.
The review was precipitated following a drug related death of an 18 year old man at the club in August, the second this summer and sixth death at the club since its opening. In announcing that the licence would be permanently revoked, Islington Council review committee cited that “people entering the club were inadequately searched,” and that the searches were “inadequate and in breach of the licence”.
Cllr Flora Williamson, chair of the review committee went on to say “Drug culture exists at the club and the management has been inadequate at controlling it. Sale and distribution of Class A drugs is particularly serious and problems have not been addressed. Revocation of the licence is appropriate and proportional in light of this.”
Co-Founder of the club, Cameron Leslie gave a passionate defence of the club, emerging the hero of the night. Patiently answering the many questions fired at him, ranging from the searching policy, through to the use of drug dogs, he highlighted the continual reviews and improvements Fabric has undertaken to ensure it has maintained a ‘gold standard’ of care and service. His efforts were recognised by the crowd of supporters who have come to hear the fate of the venue, and watch the review through to the end in an upstairs gallery.
Professor Fiona Measham spoke about the realities of drug use in the night time economy during the review, raising the point that if Fabric were to close, people would simply move to other, less safe venues and events, where less opportunity existed to protect them, as others also pointed out. She also noted the challenges faces by door staff as ecstasy pills have been reducing in size in recent years to enable them to be smuggled across boarders more easily.
If Fabric shuts down on this basis, every decent club in the UK should be shut. And unlicensed raves would then present much more risk. — mike power (@mrmichaelpower) September 7, 2016
At one point during the process the review committee raised the question of whether restricting the beats per minute of the music played would lead to less drug use in the club, although was quickly informed that this would be an unenforceable policy. The question however led commentators online to question how well the review committee understood how a nightclub such as Fabric actually operated, and a torrent of BPM-related ridicule.
What kind of full blown Brass Eye pseudo-logic is it to suggest changing the BPM to stop drug deaths? So little to relate to. #FabricReview
— Lauren Martin (@codeinedrums) September 7, 2016
One ray of hope for supporters of Fabric this morning has come from Alan Millar, who has vowed that the fight to save Fabric will continue, presumably under an appeals process, although no further details have been released on this plan so far.
In their official statement after the ruling, the club has said “Fabric is extremely disappointed with Islington Council’s decision to revoke our license. This is an especially sad day for those who have supported us, particularly the 250 staff who will now lose their jobs.
“Closing fabric is not the answer to the drug-related problems. Clubs like ours are working to prevent, and sets a troubling precedent for the future of London’s night time economy.”
The cultural importance of Fabric cannot be underestimated, nor can the symbolic importance of closing such a major venue. Such an act throws serious doubt on whether Sadiq Khan is genuinely committed to supporting the night time economy and undermines recent gestures such as the opening of the night tube and announcement that he will be hiring a ‘Night Czar’. Before the hearing the Mayor expressed his support for the club, but made clear his hands were tied, and that the responsibility for the ruling lay with Islington Council. He has this morning voiced his “disappointment” with the ruling.
— Ninja Tune (@ninjatune) September 7, 2016
It appears that while London is open for everyone else, for clubbers, their city is closing down around them.
Words by Henry Fisher