Fabric Loses License

Islington council revoked the license of London club  over drug concerns. But there may be more to the story than meets the eye. 

Photo: David Mirzoeff / PA via AP
London’s mayor says the city’s nightlife is under threat, with the closure of the Fabric club that was spurred by the deaths of two clubgoers.

Fabric’s license was first suspended and eventually revoked after the drug-related deaths of two clubgoers this summer.

The Independent reports that Islington council may have used drug abuse as a pretext to shut down the club and offer the premises to foreign investors. The newspaper arrived at this conclusion after obtaining police and council documents through the Freedom of Information Act.

Documents showed that on July 2, two undercover police officers entered Fabric to verify that the club was complying with its licensing conditions. The operation was labeled Operation Lenor, prompting associations with the fabric softener brand. The police officers did not find any hard evidence for drug use, but mentioned a lot of suspicions in their report. “It was clear when looking around that some people were intoxicated by drugs or otherwise, they were sweating and had glazed red eyes and appeared to be staring into space,” one report reads.

While Islington council used these observations to justify its decision to revoke Fabric’s license, other findings were left out. For example, both officers mentioned in their reports that the club’s crowd was peaceful, friendly and non-threatening. What is more, Fabric’s license had already been reviewed in 2014 “following four drug deaths over three and a half years from individuals visiting the premises.”

Even then, council and police tried to impose harsh conditions on the venue’s operators. Conditions that were later lifted because a judge deemed them counterproductive. The judge described Fabric’s operator as a beacon of best practice. The Independent goes on to describe, that Islington council is strapped for cash, pointing out that it “has lost half its funding since 2010. A spending review in 2015 confirmed cuts of £70m over the next four years. In 2016 alone it stands to lose £17m. The Islington police, who are partly funded by the council, face similar cuts: anything up to 44 per cent of the staff numbers – or 252 officers.”

These findings and more led The Independent to conclude that the Fabric case “was a long pre-planned event, orchestrated by a cash-strapped council, using the police as pawns.

“Follow the documents, and follow the money trail. Fabric was always going to close, drugs deaths notwithstanding. It’s not the police. It’s not drug laws. It’s likely a government that continues to roll back public services and institutions in an ever more calculating attempt to attract foreign money. And no amount of well-meaning drug law debates is going to change that.”