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Police and council deny ‘vendetta’ against Fabric, as club outlines appeal against closure

By | Published on Wednesday 21 September 2016


Police have denied that the recent licence review that saw Fabric closed down was the result of a vendetta against the club. Though in a documentary for BBC Radio 1, co-founder Cameron Leslie says that the venue “put some noses out of joint” by challenging parts of a previous licence review last year.

“I have only been working in Islington since May, so for me, to say it’s a vendetta, I don’t think so”, says Commander Nick Davies of Islington Police. “I had no knowledge of Cameron before this period. But there have been two deaths on my watch, which makes me have to do something”.

Islington Council Leader Richard Watts adds: “Nobody at Islington Council takes any pleasure about what happened to Fabric. We completely understand Fabric’s cultural importance. The decision which our licensing committee took was based on evidence that Fabric weren’t meeting the conditions of their licence. The committee did not feel confident that Fabric was a safe place that was doing everything in its power to stop crime and keep its patrons safe”.

However, Leslie maintains that last year’s judicial review, which saw Fabric successfully appeal orders made by the local council to introduce sniffer dogs and ID scans at the club’s door, were the real reason for councillors forcing the venue’s closure earlier this month.

“That was the very first time we had stood up to the police and the council”, he says. “Before that we had always worked very closely together. [But] we said that these points were wrong and they don’t work for us. It’s not because we are being obstructive – we never have been. But they [sniffer dogs and ID scanners] are wrong for this business and [the judge] agreed with us, so we felt vindicated. If I am honest, I think we came out of that and put some noses out of joint and that is why we are here today. It is my very firm belief that it was a feeling that ‘nobody does that to us’ and they got us back”.

Of course, the other conspiracy theory going around since the club had its licence from Islington Council revoked is that this was all a ruse to turn Fabric’s prime real estate into luxury flats.

But speaking to BBC Newsbeat, Chief Exec of the British Property Federation, Melanie Leach, denied that developers would seek such a thing: “Developers don’t make decisions about closing nightclubs or about what happens to particular sites. What developers do is build the places that vibrant cities need. We build offices, we build houses, we build leisure spaces, we build all of those things to make cities thrive. We don’t take the decisions about what type of buildings should be in particular locations”.

You might want to read that quote a few more times and make notes, there’s quite a lot going on in there. Maybe print it out and go and read it on the steps of the place that used to be your favourite venue.

Fabric is, of course, launching a legal challenge to the decision to revoke its licence, launching a fund to cover the expensive legal costs of doing so (unlike last time, there is no ongoing income from the club itself to fall back on). And yesterday the venue’s Managing Director Gary Kilbey published details of how it plans to spend the money being donated by supporters.

This is not just a battle to see Fabric re-opened, he said, but “also a wider fight to stop this injustice happening again, to us or other venues”.

As well as noting the difficulty in Fabric funding this legal action on its own, due to the club not being operational, he added that the wording of Islington Council’s ruling meant that the venue’s insurance claim for cancelling its events was being challenged too.

On the matter of the licensing appeal, he said: “Our first objective is to re-open Fabric. We have appealed to the Magistrates’ Court against Islington Council’s decision to revoke our licence and will be pushing for the earliest possible hearing date. We have been fortunate enough to secure the services of Philip Kolvin QC to lead our legal team, whom is widely regarded as the top licensing barrister in the UK”.

“There is also a wider fight to stop this injustice happening again, to us or other venues”, he continued. “Our main argument is as follows: No venue should be closed or threatened with closure as a result of crime occurring without the fault of management; closure should be a last resort. No venue should be closed unless the fault cannot be corrected; [and] police evidence to licensing authorities should be judged on its merits”.

“The licensed sector has become a unique exception” to other areas of society, where “criminal conduct by individuals, whether disorder, drug use or phone theft, is used by police as a pretext to shut down businesses altogether”, he says. But “well-run clubs should not face closure”.

To that end, Fabric will also be lobbying the Home Secretary to make amendments to guidance issued under the Licensing Act 2003 in order to aid other venues faced with similar licensing challenges in the future.

Read Kilbey’s full statement here.

These matters and more were discussed at the previously reported panel debate held at Fabric yesterday afternoon, which you can watch back here: