Over the course of a nine-week period from June to August, two 18-year-old boys tragically lost their lives after collapsing either within or just outside of Fabric. With the deaths initially described by police as ‘non-suspicious’ and ‘unexplained’, they were subsequently revealed to have died as the result of drugs ‘overdoses’, prompting Islington’s police force to make a request to the borough’s council on August 10th for the immediate rescindment of the venue’s licence.
However, it was widely hoped that Fabric — who initially decided not to contest their suspension — would ultimately be allowed to continue operating. The world-famous club had narrowly escaped closure late in 2014 following the death of an 18-year-old girl, who collapsed after buying MDMA whilst at the club. After a review, the club was permitted to remain open on condition that it introduce more stringent measures to prevent on-site drug consumption, including electronic ID scanning and the implementing of £300-per-four-hour-shift sniffer dogs at the entrance. Fabric subsequently won an appeal against these measures, in light of the exorbitant costs.
In announcing their decision to permanently revoke Fabric’s licence, the Islington Licensing Sub-Committee stated that ‘a culture of drug use exists at the club which the existing management and security appears incapable of controlling’, concluding that Fabric had implemented sub-par searching procedures that had been ‘in breach of [its] licence’.
However, this contradicts claims made by Cameron Leslie, co-founder of Fabric, who recently told The Guardian that his club’s systems were described as ‘a beacon of best practice’ by a judge following tests just eight months ago, while a separate licensee had been sent to observe and learn from Fabric’s systems following a death in their own establishment less than three months ago.
The news has been met by widespread anger and disbelief, not only in London but around the world, as DJs, producers and ordinary clubgoers take to Twitter in their thousands to vent their frustrations. Many are renewing calls for Sadiq Khan to intervene in the wake of Islington Council’s unexpected decision.
The incumbent mayor had previously expressed support for Fabric, tweeting his hope that the various parties would be able to reach an agreement that ‘protects clubbers’ safety and the future of the club’. Though supporting London’s floundering nightlife industry was one of his key campaign pledges in the 2016 mayoral contest, Khan has also stated that ‘City Hall rightly does not have the power to intervene in licensing cases’. He has since said that he is ‘disappointed’ in Islington Council’s decision.
In 2014, more than 30,000 people signed a Change.org petition in support of the club, a show of support which is being redoubled this time around. A current Change.org petition has so far garnered over 150,000 signatures, with many vowing to fight the ruling. London-based grime artist Mr. Mitch has proposed holding a protest rave outside of Fabric, whilst Londoners have begun laying flowers outside of the club’s doors.
Fabric have yet to confirm whether they will be appealing the council’s decision, explaining in a statement that ‘it’s too early to comment on what our next step will be’. Anger is continuing to grow, however, following a Freedom of Information request by The Independent, which suggests Fabric’s closure may have been the result of a long term cost-cutting plan by Islington Council, who have suffered a 50 per cent cut in funding from central government since 2010. Though the council insists that it came to its decision based on concerns for public safety alone, a previous undercover police operation failed to find hard evidence of widespread drug taking. Many have pointed to the example of The Haçienda, a legendary Manchester club that closed in 1997, now luxury flats, as indicative of Fabric’s fate.
Fabric’s closure comes at a poignant moment, following the recent introduction of London’s first ever night tube service, which is widely hoped to help reinvigorate London’s night economy. The number of nightclubs across the UK halved in the ten-year period from 2005 to 2015, with London, once live music capital of the world, fast becoming a nightclub graveyard. Though Sadiq Khan is currently in the process of appointing a Night Mayor to try and buck the trend, in light of Fabric’s closure many Londoners are now questioning the ability of City Hall to intervene in London’s apparently doomed nightlife.