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Fabric nightclub forced to shut down: What's the real reason?

Islington Council close cultural hub Fabric Nightclub; we explored the true motives behind its closure.

27th Sep 2016

Credit: DJ Mag

The London club Fabric has permanently lost its licence and thus has closed. This was in response to two recent deaths due to drug overdoses on the premises. At least that’s the official line.

Fabric has permanently lost its licence due to two drug - related deaths in recent weeks.

The local council concluded that the lack of thorough security checks by security staff were in a ‘breach of licence’. We weren’t there on the nights when two people died and so we don’t know how thorough the security checks were. Nor can we be certain what the intentions of the local council truly were. However, we do know that in the UK as a whole in 2005 there were 3,144 clubs in the UK and that in 2015 there were only 1,733. We do know that Fabric had actually been cited as a great example of excellent security and conduct. Now here is what I believe: there are two main reasons for the closure of clubs in general in London and the UK as a whole and Fabric is just one of many examples. The two main reasons are the government’s drug policy and gentrification. Neither of which will work. Here is why:

Drug Policy

Drug policy in general is not a key priority when it comes to UK regulation and legislation. I could write a much longer article on the potential benefits of regulating drug use rather than criminalising it, but the main point that is that harsher treatment of drug use does not necessarily reduce it. In this instance, closing fabric is unlikely to help cut down drug usage. In 2015 new security measures were pushed on Fabric. It dutifully obliged and spent a lot of money on new security measures, including paying for seven sniffer dogs a night at a rate of £300 per dog. These measures proved so ineffective that an appeal against it was successful. Fabric actually had a really good security model. The club’s co-founder Cameron Leslie claimed that ‘a judge tested all our systems and said we’re a beacon of best practice’ in an interview with the Guardian. In fact, other clubs which had issues with drug use came to look at Fabric’s practice to see how a club should be run. Furthermore, while each and every death due to drug overdosage is a tragedy, we must look at the bigger picture.

There have been 6 reported deaths due to drug overdoses in Fabric’s history - only one where the individual purchased the drugs inside the club. With an estimated 6 million people visiting in its 17 years of business, to die from a drug overdose one would quite literally need to be ‘one in a million’ ; hardly the dangerous place it is being portrayed as. Once you factor in that those who died may well have done so in other clubs if Fabric wasn’t available, the decision to close Fabric proves even more confusing. People aren’t going to stop doing drugs because Fabric has closed. They will just go elsewhere; probably somewhere less safe, yet again the governments drug policy fails.

Gentrification

The other reason widely attributed to the closure of many clubs in the UK is gentrification. This is the process of renewal and rebuilding of houses accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents. This is something that is very real and particularly in London. There are multiple strands to the issue of gentrification that affect the closing of clubs. Firstly, due to increased rents, clubs are pushed to close as profits are eroded. ‘Bar code’ was forced to close after rents rose from £60,000 to £150,000. Furthermore, clubs are also turned into accommodations, which are far more lucrative for a few businessmen - but do nothing for the area’s night life and the community as a whole. The Hacienda in Manchester has now been converted into a block of flats. The creation of new residential blocks near clubs also puts pressure on their existence due to noise complaints. But nightlife is a huge part of London’s culture. It’s the reason we have introduced the night tube. We cannot allow our nightlife to be sacrificed so that large empty flats can lay dormant allowing a faceless tax avoider to amass a fortune from rising house prices that don’t represent any real increase in wealth for the country or the capital.

The Effect on Nightlife.

Nightlife is incredibly important. The closure of Fabric will see the 250 staff there become jobless at least in the short term. We can see the importance of clubs for local business with multiple local business owners imploring the Islington council to keep the club open. Almost 150,000 people signed a petition to stop the closure of Fabric. This is a big deal, and yet it is just one a long list of clubs that have closed in recent times. Unless the government change their approach to drug use and clubs in general then our nightlife will be decimated. But, why would they? Politicians respond to votes, and it’s no secret that young people just don’t vote. If you want the government to represent you then you must vote. If you want to make your voice heard then vote, protest and lobby and hopefully we can stem and reverse the tide of destruction that is slowly but surely destroying our night life.

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