The recent spate of club closures is becoming a prominent worry to many participants of the London club scene, from the promoters to DJs and ravers…. But is this really all an unfolding of events? Or is this something that we were warned about a while back and never acknowledged in enough detail to help reduce the impact of consequence in the areas where we could as participants of the club scene?
Form 696 is renowned for the major stir it caused, demands that licensees give police a mass of detail, including the names, aliases, private addresses and phone numbers of all musicians and other performers appearing at their venue, and the ethnic background of the likely audience. Failure to comply could mean the loss of a licence or even a fine and imprisonment. One of the questions on the form requires the licensee to specify the type of music that will be performed, giving as possible examples “Bashment, R’n’B, Garage”. Whilst the requirement to provide the music style and telephone numbers was later dropped, the defence was that the information on the form would enable policing to reduce public risk as well as highlight the venues, acts and crowds that proposed to be a ‘problem’.
Since there have been a number of clubs that closures, but surely this can’t all be conspiracy? Here are some of the recent club closures that have really hit the club scene:
- Herbal in Shoreditch closed last October ‘due to unforeseen circumstances’ after the police requested for their license to come under scrutiny on the grounds of crime and disorder. This came as a surprise for regulars as the club held one of the best reputations in the London club scene for the ten years that it was open, hosting some major names eg Groove Armada. The club’s license was due for review by Hackney Council in the coming weeks of its closure.
- Ghost situated in Farrindgon Road was closed by the police on the morning of December 13th 2009 following a shooting incident which happened the night before. Having only opened the February prior, this was a short life span of a much loved venue. The club had apparently received a number of complaints from residents within the area prior claiming the quality of life for residents had diminished since opening, however the shooting was an isolated incident. The club had it’s opening times shortened to a closing time of 1AM on 11th January 2010 and is currently awaiting the hearing of an appeal on 18th and 20th May.
- Nearby Piya Piya has also had opening times shortened to finishing at 12.30AM to be completely closed by 1AM on 22nd February 2010 following a number of complaints from residents. Not only does the club need to be completely closed, but door staff are also required to do a patrol around the club to ensure that all revellers have vacated the vicinity. The club was granted a late-night license 2 years ago and has expressed that it holds great interest in maintaining a healthy relationship with the nearby residents. Piya Piya operates as a bar/restaurant during the week closing at 11PM but residents have only complained about its operation when hired by promoters for events during the weekend. Although the police had received few complaints, the concerns expressed had great effect on the panel following a street brawl the weekend of 29/30th January.
- SeOne Club has announced to have ceased trading on 22nd February due to the effects of the recession after 8 years of trading. Stating that the club could not continue trading on Saturday nights alone and it had become a struggle to fill on Thursday and Friday nights. They have sent thanks for the promoters, DJs, clubbers, staff, suppliers and anyone else who has worked or partied at the venue. The last ever event at the now legendary railway arches will take place on the 5th March.
- Ministry of Sound is at risk due to property development with planning permission being requested to build a 41 storey, 335 apartment residential building opposite the club. The concerns are that the new resident’s complaints will cause problems with its license in the future causing the club to close. The developers have offered Ministry of Sound £400,000 for soundproofing, however this would require closure for 9 months up to a year to allow works to be carried out, so has therefore been rejected. Not surprising really considering the club already had a temporary closure at the beginning of 2009 for refurbishment. A petition has been started against the development by Ministry of Sound. Hopefully some kind of agreement will be able to me made on this matter. An outcome is expected later on in the year.
- Plastic People another Shoreditch venue, is under threat of closure from police and Hackney Council who have stated that closure would be to prevent public nuisance and anti-crime disorder. Regular nights held at the venue will be forced to find a new home if the decision is not overturned. Plastic People have until March 11th to appeal. A Facebook group has been set up in support of the club and presently holds 13,000+ members after just 1 week of being set up, showing there is a large amount of support to keep the venue open. The numbers are sadly not reflected with petition signatories so if in favour please do get signing. The club are seeking legal assistance and are doing their best to co-operate with the council and police. They’ve also requested that any outside representation to both parties are held back as they are optimistic in finding a resolution after 16 years of running without any previous problems with their licence. The story continues to unfold.
So as lovers and participants of the London club scene we can evidently see that problems will arise for our venues inevitably with the economy and area regeneration plans, but the main problem facing venue license holders is not being able to control the actions of club attendees when visiting/leaving events. That includes all of us!
Fair enough when buzzing from the vibe and energy within a venue, it’s hard to remember that everyone on the outside isn’t buzzing with us, and more time we just want to share the euphoria, but this is one of the main things local residents/businesses complain about most. Whilst a large number prefer the City and West End venues, Clerkenwell council have stated that the area is saturated and are not granting any new licenses, whilst clamping down on present license holders.
This means that if we want to keep the swanky bar element of our raving culture alive, we’re going to have to remember that the party stops at the venue door however much of a party pooper this is. Upon arrival/departure, we’ll have to pretend that we’re pulling up outside our grandparent’s house for Sunday lunch and ensure our stereos are not blaring in the fashion of an 18 year old rally driver, and most importantly remember that every venue has sanitation facilities INSIDE!!
Now I’m not saying the club closures/license revocations are all our fault, but if a venue has an ultra dynamic sound system, chances are the residents will find enough problem in that alone to complain about it as a factor for closure within itself. Surely if we love the scene, we can each help to preserve it? I don’t think I need to mention the violence side of the issue – it’s common sense.
Or we can go back to warehouse raving like we did in the 90’s….. There have been a few recently and personally, I think they can have a better vibe than the picture taking swanky bar events. But some of the aforementioned venues are more about the music than the hype, so let’s all do our bit to keep them alive instead of whining once the damage has been done.