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Fabric Closure: 10 Reasons Why Closing Club Is A ‘Buck Passing’ Answer To Drug Problems

'Whether we like it or not; we live in a drug culture.'

07/09/2016 13:28 | Updated 07 September 2016

London’s famous Fabric nightclub has been closed over a “culture of drug use”, but charities and campaigners argue the move will make tragedies more likely.

The club’s license was removed by Islington Council on Tuesday night, after two 18-year-olds died after overdosing on MDMA at the club this summer.

But groups like DrugWise, which calls for evidence-based information on drugs, told The Huffington Post UK that closing the 2,500-capacity club would simply push drug use into “less regulated and more dangerous environments”.

Drugs NGO Release said closing the club was a “complete abdication of responsibility” by the council that will do little to protect the safety of clubbers.

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Dreadnought DJing at Fabric in Farringdon.

Fabric itself says that it was working to prevent drug-related problems, and that the move “sets a troubling precedent” for the future of London’s night economy.

“Enforcement and prohibition does not make drugs go away - it just makes them more risky,” says Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at Transform.

“The focus has to shift to sensible, evidence-based harm reduction - and away from the fantasy that policing can magically make drugs disappear.”

These ten reasons lay out why some feel closing the historic night spot will do more harm than good:

  • 1 It's a 'knee jerk reaction'
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    Critics say this summer's deaths should have been a prompt for action around drug safety, rather than simply moving to close Fabric.

    Steve Rolles, the senior policy analyst at Transform, called the move "a classic case of buck passing from those who are unwilling to understand or appreciate their role in creating an environment in which such tragedies become more - not less likely."

    Edward Fox from drugs law NGO Release added: "Closing down nightclubs is a complete abdication of responsibility and does little to protect people’s health and wellbeing.

    "The tragic deaths of two young people at the club should have been a turning point whereby Islington Council began to explore measures that would support implementation of proper harm reduction initiatives at the club." 

    Harry Shapiro, the Director of Drugwise, thinks the police, local authorities and club owners need to "put their heads together a bit on this and not just go for what would be the knee-jerk reaction of taking licenses away."
  • 2 It's not realistic
    PYMCA via Getty Images
    Drug use is a part of London’s nightlife and councils must accept that, critics argue.

    Focusing on safety measures like having drug workers on-site is not "condoning drug use" but rather "accepting the reality that people will take drugs, and often they will take drugs before they even arrive at the venue," according to Shaprio of Drugwise. 

    "Obviously you’ve got to have a zero tolerance policy anywhere but you’ve also got to be realistic," he said.

    "You expect clubs and festival owners to do what they can to prevent drugs being used and sold on the premises, but there’s only so much a venue can do."
  • 3 Fabric's drug prevention "was superior"
    Tim Whitby/PA Archive
    Some reports say that the famous night spots's efforts to combat drugs were as good, if not better, than those at other clubs.

    "If the operational measures Fabric already have in place aren’t enough to satisfy a licence committee, then no club stands a chance," says Alan Miller, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association. "It’s obviously very sad people died," he sad, but claimed it was wrong to "isolate it and say it’s down to the responsibility of the nightclub".

    "If you close Fabric, you’ll have to close every nightclub in Britain, because no one has the due diligence, extra staff and safety measures they employ,” he said in The Guardian.

    Although Fabric resisted the use of sniffer dogs and scanners after a trial proved unsuccessful, measures like having first aiders and information on drugs on site have proved it "a superior operation given the circumstances it has to work under," according to writer Anna Cafolla on Dazed.
  • 4 Clubbers will just take drugs somewhere else
    PYMCA via Getty Images
    If Fabric stays closed, many say drug problems will just be displaced, in all likelihood to less regulated and more dangerous environments.

    "They will go somewhere else," says Shapiro. "I don’t think that the closure of a venue makes drug use more or less dangerous, or will involve more or less drug use."
  • 5 Drug taking could be pushed 'into the shadows'
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    “Drug users and drug taking will never be eradicated completely," says BBC DJ B.Traits who is campaigning for in-club drug testing.

    "By decimating entertainment venues this problem will be only pushed into the shadows at unlicensed parties or raves which, unlike Fabric, have no on-site medical professionals," she told The Evening Standard.
  • 6 The logic isn't applied elsewhere
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    "The existence of a 'culture of drugs' in Fabric was given as one of the reasons for its closure," says Rolles from Transform, "but consider for a moment the culture of drugs that exists in prisons, in pubs - or even in the House of Commons. Should we close all of them?

    "Whether we like it or not; we live in a drug culture - that has to be the starting point for policy makers."
  • 7 It could discourage other clubs from moving forward on drug safety
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    Shapiro worries that closing Fabric sets a bad example to other clubs. "If venues get the idea that if they do have an accident or a problem on their premise they risk losing their licence, then that is absolutely not going to encourage what I would call a harm-reduction approach.

    "There used to be quite a lot of activity in clubs and venues, with drug workers giving help, and then the licenceing got tougher and tougher so of course promoters and club owners were increasingly reluctant to let drug workers around the premises because it would make it look like their venue had a particular problem.

    "I think it’s counter productive to be honest."
  • 8 A more positive approach
    David M. Benett via Getty Images
    The area needs a "more positive, pro-active approach to trying to keep people safe rather than simply closing venues down,” Shapiro of Drugwise told HuffPost UK.

    Edward Fox, of Release, said the club and council should work on safety measures like "allowing outreach services... that could advise people on safer use, and drug testing so that people know what is in the substances they are taking."
  • 9 There are other precedents to follow
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    "It doesn't need to be like this," claims Transform. Other festivals and venues are trying out new ways of tackling the problem. This year's Secret Garden Party Festival invited charity The Loop to test revellers’ drugs to show how pure they were, and police agreed not to detain people visiting the service. 

    Clubs such as Manchester’s Warehouse Project have also adopted this approach.

    “On-site testing does, in no way, condone or promote the use of controlled substances," B.Traits said in the Evening Standard. 

    "What it helps achieve is an increased awareness of the dangers of particular drugs to both the user and the police, resulting in informed decision making by potential users.”

    But closing clubs like Fabric make such schemes hard to implement, says Rolles.

    "The get-tough posturing and heavy-handed policing... has made pragmatic responses - such as on-site drug testing - near impossible."
  • 10 Policing is key
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    “Rather than closing Fabric, it would have been better to police it more effectively," Yasmin Batliwala, the Chair of the Westminster Drug Project told HuffPost UK.

    "This would have removed the need for closure, and avoided forcing clubbers into unregulated venues.”

    Fabric's co-owner Cameron Leslie pointed out that despite 80 arrests at the club over the past four years, police have only successfully prosecuted one person:

    "Perhaps police should be taking a look at themselves."
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