After dedicated clubbers protested outside Islington Town Hall and some confused Twitter users stockpiled clothing, the #savefabric campaign has come to a sad end.
The decision to close the iconic club has been criticised by many. At least one gold-toothed Jungle pioneer has suggested he will melt down his MBE in protest. And why shouldn’t he? They didn’t close the Dorchester Hotel after a Kuwaiti Sultan died there. They didn’t close the BBC after the Great British Bake Off died there (though actually…). Closing clubs won’t stop drugs. Fight drugs not clubs. Etc.
Sentiment aside, this situation raises a question that is definitely interesting enough for its own blog post: What happens when a nightclub shuts its doors? I don’t just mean in the early hours of the morning when even the DJ is too tired to carry on. A club closing down forever raises several important issues around culture, morals and, just as importantly (if not hugely excitingly), who actually owns the buildings these clubs occupy. We’re going to talk about all of that right here. Who needs Fabric to have a good time?
When a nightclub closes, the focus is always on where that leaves its regulars—often cited as being a certain age (young) and disposition (reckless). London Mayor Sadiq Khan mourned the loss of the club, surely dismayed that he didn’t find a ‘Night Czar’ early enough to ride in on his Night Horse and snare the Islington Council with his Nightstick. A Czar-less Khan said London needs to stop closing clubs if it is to maintain its “world-class nightlife.”
Potential medal-melter Goldie warned that club closures may lead to “mass riots,” while the rest of the electronic music community went into a state of grief. Meanwhile, the media think pieces were, of course, out in full force, showing the impact Fabric had far outside of dance music.
Governments have intervened in youth culture before. The 1994 introduction of the Criminal Justice And Public Order Act served as a death knell for the rave culture started by acid house, banning large groups of people from dancing to music which is “predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.” And yes, that wording is taken verbatim from the law.
That act, essentially “get off of my lawn” enshrined into law, forced ravers to move inside, thus spurring the growth of club culture—the same club culture that legislators are slowly dismantling now. At least seventeen legendary clubs have closed since the year 2000, hinting that London clubbing may soon end up alongside MySpace and EU membership as something only nineties kids remember.
But just as rave culture evolved and continued in the face of legal pressure, clubbers will find a way to keep the spirit alive. Perhaps outdoor raves will see a comeback and the circle of life will continue.
The wider effect of a nightclub closure is well established, especially by the first half of this very article. But what do the owners of Fabric actually have to do now?
At this point, they are appealing the verdict, meaning they are most likely intending to keep it in its current state. But this will not be feasible for long. Fabric’s fashionable Farringdon location will no doubt come with a high price tag. With Fabric closed and unable to make money, its owners will struggle to pay all manner of maintenance costs, from rent to business rates.
London business rates are predicted to rise massively in the coming months for businesses across all sectors, but bars and nightclubs in particular have been hit by exorbitant fees of many kinds. During the appeal process, Fabric’s owners will find themselves being charged for running a business, despite the fact that they are legally prohibited from doing so. Since a lot of the money local councils make comes from business rates, this will mean paying Islington Council simply for the right to appeal against their decision.
One way around this would be to close the business completely and stop renting the property. However, as in the case of Manchester’s legendary Haçienda, the property would almost be snapped up by developers, demolished and rebuilt as flats—perhaps even advertised with a slogan as patronising as the one used to advertise the Haçienda Apartments: “Now the party’s over, you can come home.”
If the appeal takes too long, it may well be too late to #savefabric. And if the UK’s nightlife sector continues to shrink with a growth rate of -7.8% and clubs keep closing, London’s soon-to-be-appointed Night Czar is going to find themselves with a lot of time on their hands…