A decision to close London’s Fabric nightclub over a “culture of drug use” has sparked an outpouring of grief and anger.
Islington Council held a review of the club’s licence on Tuesday night following the deaths of two 18-year-olds who had taken drugs there in June and August this year.
Ryan Browne and Jack Crossley died after overdosing on MDMA at the club in Farringdon, north London. The deaths followed those of four others at the 2,500 capacity club since 2011.
The club’s owners rejected suggestions drug-taking was rife at the famous venue and that door searches were lax.
However, reports by the Met described how on one night “80 per cent of clubgoers appeared to be under the influence of drugs, while more than half “are willing to sell drugs”, the Mirror reported. The Independent has since labelled that evidence, largely anecdotal.
The newspaper wrote: “Fabric’s closure was a long pre-planned event, orchestrated by a cash-strapped council, using the police as pawns.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Wednesday issued a statement saying he was “disappointed” that Fabric, Islington Council and the police could not come to an “agreement” on how to address concerns about public safety.
Khan said London’s “iconic clubs are an essential part of our cultural landscape” and as a result of the council’s decision “thousands of people who enjoyed going to Fabric as an essential part of London’s nightlife will lose out.”
He said the issues faced by Fabric were not unique, saying they “point to a wider problem of how we protect London’s night-time economy, while ensuring it is safe and enjoyable for everyone”.
Khan said over the past eight years London had lost 50% of its nightclubs and 40% of its live music venues, a decline that “must stop if London is to retain its status as a 24-hour city with a world-class nightlife”.
Khan said he was in the process of appointing a “night Czar” who will bring together key stakeholders including club and venue owners, local authorities, the Metropolitan Police and members of the public.
“No single organisation or public body can solve these problems alone – we all need to work together to ensure London thrives as a 24-hour city, in a way that is safe and enjoyable for everyone,” Khan said.
The council ordered Fabric’s licence to be revoked permanently saying the bar had a “culture of drug use” which management were “incapable of controlling”.
According to the Evening Standard, the head of the committee, councillor Flora Williamson, said staff intervention and security was “grossly inadequate” given the volume of evidence suggesting the patrons at the bar were using drugs.
Williams said problems raised during a review in 2014, had not been addressed which she said had resulted in “further tragedy”.
Fabric’s director, Cameron Leslie, disputed the claims and told how his co-founder, Keith Reilly had stood-up to an organised crime syndicate who wanted to push drugs through the club.
Reilly was said to have moved his family out of their home over safety fears, and worn a bullet-proof vest for month.
Leslie told the hearing that “the notion of Fabric being a safe haven for drugs is frankly insulting”.
He also suggested police could have done more, saying despite 80 arrests at the club during the past four years, police had only successfully prosecuted one person. His speech received resounding applause.
The Mirror quoted him as saying: “Perhaps police should be taking a look at themselves.”
Top artists and DJs had backed a campaign to save Fabric including BBC Radio presenters Annie Mac and Pete Tong, superstar DJs Carl Cox and Fatboy Slim, rapper Professor Green, and groups the Chemical Brothers and Groove Armada.
Fabric released a statement after the decision, saying that 250 jobs would be lost.
In a statement on Wednesday Fabric wrote: “Fabric is extremely disappointed with Islington Council’s decision to revoke our licence. 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 further of London’s night time economy.”
It is not yet known if the club will appeal the decision, although there have been suggestions that fundraising will begin soon to fight the ruling.
lan Miller of the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) pledged that the #SaveFabric campaign must continue.
DJ Mag quoted him as saying: “We’re going to fight this, it’s an absolute travesty.
“Fabric upholds a gold standard of professionalism in their operations, and what has happened tonight is a demonstration of knee-jerk reactions to close down our businesses and cultural centres.
“Licensed premises are being held accountable for issues that exist in society. Everything that has happened in Britain in the last 25 years to improve our culture, our economy and our society - tonight it’s been absolutely dispensed with.”
An earlier statement from Fabric:
“Following the tragic incidents that recently occurred at our venue, we wanted to extend our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of those concerned. We pride ourselves on running a safe venue, and we feel extremely saddened by the events that have taken place in recent weeks.
“The safety of our customers is our number one priority. Since we opened our doors in 1999, we have always worked closely with the police and the licensing authority in adopting the most effective known techniques to reduce harm and prevent drug-related crime on our premises and we continue to look at new ways we can improve our processes. We currently have comprehensive drug reduction policies in place, including a pioneering system with the police to log and handover any drugs we confiscate.
“We recognise that illegal drugs are a particular issue in the clubbing sphere which many venues like ours have challenges in addressing. We have zero tolerance to drugs on the premises and, as recently as December last year, we were described by District Judge Allison in a court judgement as a “beacon of best practice” in managing this issue.
“We know there are always areas where we can improve, and, following the recent tragic deaths, we are undertaking a thorough review of the lessons we can learn. As part of this we are independently reviewing all of our procedures to ensure that we have the best possible processes in place to keep our customers safe.
“As acknowledged by the Mayor of London, clubs are a central part of the night time economy and London’s music and creative industry and they are in real danger of extinction. We hope to work constructively with the police and the London Borough of Islington to ensure that, in providing the safest possible environment for music-lovers, we continue to operate after nearly two decades as a leading part of the London club scene.
“We’d also like to say a huge thank you to all of you that have shown your support over the last couple of weeks, it really does mean a lot.”
Hundreds took to social media on Wednesday to mourn the loss of the celebrated nightclub including leading DJs and performers.
Artists Chase & Status were brutal:
Nick Grimshaw described Fabric as “an institution”. Model Daisy Low wrote, “RIP Fabric”.
DJ Jacob Husley, who has worked at the club’s Sunday night party for the past eight years, said he was surprised by the decision.
He told the Mirror: “We are in shock. I am feeling a mixture of disbelief and anger and sadness.”
Asked what the closure of the club would mean, he said: “It would be a devastating blow for London and culture, and clubs across the UK. It sets a precedent.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan had previously said he was “determined” to do more to protect London’s “iconic clubs” and a statement from him was published on the petition page to save Fabric.
In it, Khan urged everyone involved to “find a common-sense solution that ensures the club remains open while protecting the safety of those who want to enjoy London’s clubbing scene.
As anger mounted on Twitter, some suggested the closure was prompted by plans to expand the Museum of London at Smithfield Market.
Members of the public also expressed their frustrations at the closure and shared their memories of nights out there.