This week saw one of the darkest days in the history of UK nightlife. In a shocking but not unexpected move, Islington Borough Council, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police, revoked fabric’s license, forcing the club to close indefinitely.
After the tragic deaths of two young men earlier this year, the venue was closed temporarily as a review went underway. Whispers had already begun that this was the end, and unfortunately these rumours were proved to be correct, as in the early hours of Wednesday morning the decision was made to close fabric for good.
Was this a carefully considered approach to tackling the issues of drug use in nightclubs? Or was it a knee-jerk reaction from an out-of-touch council? The latter certainly seems more likely; closing a nightclub for an allegedly relaxed drug policy will do nothing but displace the drugs to other areas. Furthermore, fabric had a team of on-site medics trained to deal with emergencies which, combined with strict searches and a zero-tolerance policy to those caught with drugs, means it was probably of one the safest venues in London. So why, then, close the venue so suddenly? By all accounts, fabric was a bastion for safe clubbing and had previously been hailed by the Metropolitan Police for its cooperation and attitude.
The case bears striking similarities to the closure of The Arches in Glasgow, Scotland. After the death of a young girl, the club’s licence was reviewed and it was quickly forced to shut its doors. It seems odd that both councils would be so quick to shut two venues that brought so much to their respective cities, after two terrible but nonetheless rare events. After all, people die every year at UK festivals but there is never any talk about shutting them down. So is there an ulterior motive?
The answer, it would appear, lies in real estate. In The Arches case, the club was adjacent to the site of a planned hotel development. Whether that is the reason or not, it certainly seems suspect. The plot only thickens when we take a look at fabric’s case. The club sits across from the site chosen for the new Museum of London, and many have said outright that this has directly influenced the decision.
Of course, this is all speculation. We may never really know whether these truly iconic institutions were closed to make way for new, more tourist-friendly attractions. Or if they were shut in a blind panic from a government with a flawed and ultimately damaging drugs policy. Whatever the reason, with 50% of London’s nightclubs gone in the past 8 years, the outlook isn’t good for UK club culture.