London’s nightlife is under attack. That became obvious this morning with the news that the popular club Fabric has closed for good. After a series of drug-related deaths at the venue, Islington Borough Council has decided the risk of keeping it open is too great.
It’s come as a shock to many that Fabric is finished. Indeed, a petition to keep it alive reached over 148,000 signatures – and many celebrity backers, such as Annie Mac and the Chemical Brothers pleaded with the public: save the rave.
But it was too little, too late. Another London nightclub has been forced to close. Fabric is just a small part of a much bigger problem; our party scene is in crisis, with clubs in the city declining by a third between 2005 and 2015. It’s not just these venues that are suffering; our comatose capital is causing increasing numbers of bars and restaurants to die.
The explanations for the decline of London nightlife are myriad and well-documented. One of the biggest problems is the amount of bureaucracy choking up evening establishments. Oppressive regulations such as the Late Night Levy now mean any business that supplies alcohol late has to pay a tax; Public Space Protection Orders allow councils to punish people if they deem their behaviour unruly – meaning that tipsiness could be a crime.
Venue owners are having an incredibly tough time. Thanks to police cuts, bars and clubs have been forced to hike up their security – which means hiking up entrance fees, which inevitably puts off customers. All this fuss encourages them to sell up when offered lucrative sums from property developers. And when one club closes, another doesn’t open: who would bother breaking into the industry with its strict licensing laws and heavy costs?
This lethal combination is killing every element of London nightlife, from sitting in a beer garden, to cocktails in a bar, to trying to enjoy a boogie. And what seems like a rather trivial matter has grave consequences for our economy. For starters, London is a tourism hotspot, but with the abysmal state of our nightlife, forget Brexit – Europeans will turn away from our city because of early bed times. The nearby cities of Berlin, Amsterdam and Barcelona are far more appealing, thanks to governments that don’t consider boozy evenings a sin.
The ‘night-time economy’ makes a valuable contribution to annual GDP – six percent, in fact – a figure that could grow further with more lenient conditions. It also builds social cohesion. Fabric helped to make Clerkenwell, where it’s based, the thriving place it is today. In Peckham, the Bussey Building has invigorated the destination, encouraging new bars and businesses to set up shop.
None of these places are perfect. Fabric was far from it – indeed, the reason it closed down was because six people had died in four years from drug overdoses. This is a tragedy, but not one I genuinely believe will be fixed by shutting down the club. If anything, the closure of regulated establishments could increase drug-related deaths, as people take illicit activities back to the home, where there won’t be staff on hand to help.
Ultimately, Islington Borough Council’s decision shows how little consideration people give to clubs, viewing them as hotbeds of crime and social misconduct. I suspect council authorities do not attract the types who go raving, but if they did, they would know that clubs help form the fabric of our society. They are one of the few places where people from all backgrounds can relax and unite over their music of choice.
Thankfully, one of the first politicians to take London’s nightlife seriously has arrived: Sadiq Khan. In recent weeks, he has announced plans to recruit a Night Czar to save the city. I hoped he could save Fabric, but I was wrong. I thought the Night Tube might save it too, but I’m not sure why TFL bothered with such infrastructure – considering London ravers have nowhere to go. I suspect like many clubbers, I’m not only fed up about the decision – but sad, too. Fabric’s closure is an omen for the whole clubbing scene; a reminder that the night may soon be over for London’s nightlife.
George Hull, Mark Wilding and Kevin Dunning discuss the 24-hour tube and London’s nightlife: