London nightclub Fabric’s licence has been revoked, following a hearing of Islington Council’s Licensing Sub Committee that stretched into the early hours of this morning.
As previously reported, the venue was temporarily closed last month, pending a review of its licence following two recent drug-related deaths on the premises. Ahead of the hearing, the club issued a statement thanking its supporters, including the almost 150,000 people who signed a petition calling for the venue to be allowed to reopen.
Once it was under way, evidence was presented at the hearing stating that the two men who died were able to smuggle ecstasy into the club, as well as buy MDMA once inside. Police said that undercover officers had found in early July that door searches had been “inadequate” and that people in the smoking area were buying and selling drugs within earshot of security staff.
Police also said that many in the club were visibly under the influence of drugs, and that because of “clear intoxication that isn’t acted upon by the staff … this helps create the perception of an environment tolerant of drugs”.
Many of those speaking up for the club, including local residents, attendees and industry reps, said that closing the venue was simply not the answer. Searches of clubbers entering the venue have always been thorough, the hearing was told, and a venue of cultural significance such as Fabric should be supported by local authorities.
Reviews from Trip Advisor in which people complained about the strictness of door searches were submitted as evidence, while the venue talked up its staff training, which included advice on how to spot people under the influence of illegal drugs, and the systems in place to get medical attention for those in distress.
Alan Miller from the Night Time Industries Association also noted that closing venues does not stop people from taking drugs, saying that after The Arches in Glasgow was closed down last year “there was a proliferation of [drug related] incidents in the area”. Others concurred, arguing that closing one single venue would have no impact at all on ecstasy use in London, and could in fact put users in danger.
Fabric co-founder Cameron Leslie gave an impassioned speech, saying that it was “frankly insulting” to be told that the venue had not done enough to combat drug use, given the efforts made in recent years to strengthen security – policies that were described as “a beacon of best practice” by a judge just last year.
He accused the police’s triggering of the licence review of being a “premeditated exercise”, and also noted that of the 80 drug dealers arrested in the venue over the last few years, only one has actually been prosecuted.
Fabric itself has not yet issued a statement, though it does have the option to appeal. As previously reported, it did successfully appeal a previous ruling by the council on its licence, leading to the aforementioned judicial approval of its security operations.
Noting that in an interview prior to the hearing yesterday, Leslie told The Guardian: “Only eight months ago, a judge tested all our systems and said we’re a beacon of best practice. Eleven weeks ago another licensee, from a venue that had a death, was sent to visit us to see how we managed things. How can this suddenly have changed overnight in such a damning way?”
London mayor Sadiq Khan, who had previously supported Fabric remaining open, but said that it was not within his power to intervene in the licence review, this morning issued a statement.
“London’s iconic clubs are an essential part of our cultural landscape”, said Khan. “Clubbing needs to be safe but I’m disappointed that Fabric, Islington Council and the Metropolitan Police were unable to reach agreement on how to address concerns about public safety. As a result of this decision, thousands of people who enjoyed going to Fabric as an essential part of London’s nightlife will lose out. The issues faced by Fabric point to a wider problem of how we protect London’s night-time economy, while ensuring it is safe and enjoyable for everyone”.
CREDIT: Thanks to our friends at CMU for this story.