Fabric death caused by MDMA toxicity
As London’s Fabric nightclub gears up to reopen this weekend, an inquest has found that MDMA toxicity was what caused the second death in the venue within six weeks last year.
Jack Crossley, aged 18, died in August from a cardiac arrest after visiting the London club. He had 2.2 micrograms of MDMA in every millilitre of his blood, according to the Guardian. The dose was “well within the fatal range,” said toxicologist Joanna Hockenhull. Crossley’s death came soon after that of Ryan Browne, who, also aged 18, collapsed and died from the same causes at the end of June.
Islington Borough Council then revoked the club’s license after a six-hour debate that found a “culture of drug use” at the 2,500-capacity superclub which “security appears incapable of controlling”. However, the venue announced in November it was to reopen after agreeing to make changes to its management structure and introduce stricter searches, covert surveillance and lifetime bans for anyone found to be in possession of drugs.
Philip Kolvin QC, a licensing lawyer who represented Fabric in its successful bid to have its licence reinstated, has since been appointed chairman of London’s Night Time Commission.
Crossley’s friend, Josh Green, told a court inquest the duo had smuggled crystal MDMA into the venue in their underwear and had taken it intermittently throughout the evening before running out.
Green said Crossley was then offered to buy more from a dealer in the club and they both said yes. It was while leaving the venue at 5.30am that Crossley appeared unwell and a doorman took him to the medical bay, where a paramedic found his pulse to be 190BPM and called an ambulance. He suffered a cardiac arrest while in the ambulance and again at the Royal London hospital. Resuscitation attempts were stopped at 8.58am.
“I believe that the metabolic effects of the drug reaction were so severe that there was nothing else that teams could have done that would have had a significant effect on the outcome,” said the doctor.
Fabric GM Luke Laws said while there would have been no way to detect the MDMA Crossley and Green were carrying when entering the club, that he had taken measures to ensure the club has no dark corners and that staff had been retrained to conduct stricter searches.
Laws told the court “there is a problem between crime and disorder and public health,” and that more needs to be done to warn over the strength of ecstasy.
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Fabric lawyer named Night Time Commission chair
Philip Kolvin QC, a licensing lawyer who represented Fabric in its successful bid to have its licence reinstated, has been appointed chairman of London’s Night Time Commission.
A statement from the office of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, describes Kolvin (pictured) as “the UK’s top expert on licensing” and says he will work alongside newly appointed night czar Amy Lamé to “develop and implement a vision of London as a 24-hour city”.
The Night Time Commission was established in March by then-mayor Boris Johnson to investigate “what should be done to protect and manage” London’s night-time economy. Johnson said at the time that “licensing requirements and other red tape are damaging [venues’] operations, even leading to closures. If we are to compete against other world cities is vital that we develop policies to reconcile the competing needs and concerns.”
The commission was headed up initially by Munira Mirza, then the deputy mayor for education and culture. Originally scheduled to conclude in October, its work has been extended by Khan into the new year.
“Working alongside Amy Lamé, Philip’s expert knowledge in the field of licensing, regulation and policy will be crucial in ensuring our live music venues and nightclubs are protected from closure”
Speaking today, Khan said: “Our city’s flourishing nightlife attracts millions of visitors from the UK and abroad every year. However, with the loss of so many clubs and venues from around the capital, we cannot afford to be complacent. That’s why I’m delighted to appoint Philip Kolvin QC as chair of a revamped Night Time Commission.
“Working alongside my newly-appointed night czar, Amy Lamé, Philip’s expert knowledge in the field of licensing, regulation and policy will be crucial in ensuring that our live music venues and nightclubs are protected from closure and that they are recognised as a distinctive part of our cultural heritage.”
Kolvin adds: “It’s vital that we ensure that everyone benefits from a thriving night-time economy – from those who want a great night out to those who want a good night’s sleep. I look forward to working with [Lamé] so that we can develop the role of London as the global leader of the night-time economy.”
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Fabric to reopen after management reshuffle
Fabric, the world-famous London nightclub forced to close in September, is to reopen after agreeing to make changes to its management structure and introduce stricter searches, covert surveillance and lifetime bans for anyone found to be in possession of drugs.
In a joint statement, released this afternoon, the London Borough of Islington and club owner Fabric Life Ltd outlined the conditions for reinstatement of Fabric’s licence, with the club agreeing to take the blame for supposed lax drug enforcement and accepting Islington was “fully entitled to revoke its licence”. Part of it reads:
“Fabric has offered many new additional conditions to be added to its licence, all of which are designed to ensure a zero-tolerance approach to drug possession, consumption and sale within the club. […]
“Fabric accepts that its procedures in relation to searching were insufficient, as were its procedures to prevent the consumption and dealing of drugs within the club itself. Fabric accepts that the police acted reasonably in making the application for a review and that the authority’s sub-committee was fully entitled to revoke its licence. Fabric repudiates the online abuse aimed at committee members and council staff and will permanently exclude anyone who has been found to be involved.
“Fabric is committed to doing all it reasonably can to ensure that no more of its clubbers come to drug-related harm. It also recognises that there need to be, and will be, changes to its management structure and accountability.
“The authority is now satisfied that Fabric’s directors and senior management understand … that zero tolerance to drugs means precisely that”
“The authority welcomes Fabric’s acceptance of all these matters. It is now satisfied that Fabric’s directors and senior management understand precisely what has to be done to ensure that Fabric is a safe environment for young clubbers, and that zero tolerance to drugs means precisely that. The measures to be implemented include:
- The use of a new ID scanning system on entry to the club
- Enhanced searching procedures and controls
- Covert surveillance within the club
- Lifetime bans for anyone found in possession of drugs, whether on entry or within the club
- Lifetime bans for anyone trying to buy drugs in the club
- Enhanced monitoring and external auditing for compliance against procedures
- Physical changes to the club, including improved lighting and additional CCTV provision
- A new security company
- Persons under 19 years of age shall not be permitted to be on the premises as a customer or guest from 2000 hours on a Friday until 0800 hours on the following Monday or on any day during the hours that the operators promote a core club night
“We are hugely thankful to be able to confirm the news that we have won our licence back,” says Fabric in a statement. “We owe everything to our supporters. We really would not be here today without your unparallelled support and generosity.
“So many different people stepped up to put their voices to our cause: artists from all corners of the music community, fellow promoters who have put on huge events from us and clubbers from around the world who all united behind us. We’ve even seen people sporting their #savefabric T-shirts on the other side of this planet showing just how big this thing is.
“So, thank you to all of you. Without the strength of your backing this would not have happened. You saved Fabric.”
Fabric #saveourculture fund tops £140k
Fabric has raised over £140,000 in donations since Friday as it prepares a legal challenge to its recent closure.
The campaign fund, dubbed #saveourculture, will go towards “help[ing] retain a small Fabric team, [keeping] the venue in hibernation and to prepare a legal battle to re-open and stop this police oppression”, says the 2,500-cap. London club, which earlier this month had its licence revoked by Islington Council for what the council called a “culture of drug use [Fabric] appears incapable of controlling”.
At the time of writing, the club had raised £143,823.
The top backers so far are Nick Gold, of The Box cabaret club in Soho, and The Warehouse Project director Rich McGinnis, both of whom have pledged £5000 each.
Says the campaign page:
It will be an expensive battle, and we need you to stand with us and contribute to the campaign fund…
Do you believe that youth culture and music are an essential part of life? If the answer’s ‘yes’, join the fight to save our culture.
Do you see the importance in having safe, well-run spaces to come together and express ourselves in? If the answer’s ‘yes’, join the fight to save our culture.
Do you realise how much London has suffered already, and just what’s at stake if we stand by and do nothing? If the answer’s ‘yes’, join the fight to save our culture.
Just think about that ticket you would have bought these last six weeks we’ve been shut, or those few beers at the bar – all donations are absolutely vital and we know that together we can do this.
Donate to our campaign to #saveourculture today. It could be your last chance.
Closed London clubs plan march and ‘venue vigil’
Representatives from seven under-threat or recently closed London venues – Passing Clouds, the 100 Club, the Silver Bullet, Shapes, the Passage, 12 Bar and Fabric – will take to the streets tomorrow in a “vibrant carnival-style procession” to protest against the closure of Passing Clouds.
Over 30 venues across the capital will also fall silent at midnight in support of the venue.
The campaign to save Passing Clouds, a 300-capacity music/arts venue and communtity centre in Dalston, has won the support of Paloma Faith, Frank Turner, DJ Gilles Peterson, producer Trevor Horn and the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who has said “we don’t want venues like Passing Clouds closing”.
Outlining the background to the march, a Passing Clouds spokeswomen explains: “On 22 August, after ten vibrant years serving the community, Passing Clouds was evicted without warning by Landhold Developments after months of battles to secure a new lease.
“Last month, Landhold Developments offered a 345% rent increase but then evicted us just days later before giving us proper time to respond. Now our building on Richmond Road resembles a maximum security prison with security guards and dogs on 24-hour patrol.”
“We’re dropping like flies and enough is enough”
She says Passing Clouds is “a unique platform for musicians and artist from over 100 countries” and “one of London’s and the UK’s best examples of unity and harmony via multicultural interaction.”
Protesters will march from Hoxton square to Passing Clouds to deliver an open letter to Landhold Developments, Hackney Council, Khan and City Hall.
“What started as a march to save our building has become so much more in the wake of Fabric’s closure,” says the venue’s events manager, Gudrun Getz. “This is about drawing attention to what is happening to music venues and clubs all over London. We’re dropping like flies and enough is enough. We need proper measures in place to protect our creative spaces and cultural heritage, and we need these measures implemented as a matter of urgency. If we don’t act now, there will be nowhere left to go out in London.”
Getz has called on Hackney Council to follow Wandsworth’s lead in protecting the borough’s small clubs and pubs.
MVT announces Fightback fundraiser
Music Venue Trust (MVT) has announced a one-off concert to raise money for a new emergency fund for small venues facing closure.
Taking place at the Roundhouse in London on Tuesday 18 October, Fightback has, says MVT’s Mark Davyd, “no artists booked and no infrastructure confirmed, because this is urgent. What’s happening to our music venues is an emergency which should concern every music fan, every musician and everybody working in the music industry in the UK.
“As of 9am this morning we genuinely don’t know who is playing. It might be me with a ukulele and a bass drum tied to my back, or it might be the biggest artist in the world. We’re asking music fans from across London to please join us for just one night to say loudly and clearly that we’ve all had enough of music venue closures and we aren’t going to put up with it any more.”
Davyd tells IQ the decision to launch the initiative so soon after the closure of Fabric is “timely, as there’s a lot of attention” on the club, but that a “lack of the best legal advice and expert opinion” is an ongoing issue that’s the “key factor closing music venues across the UK”.
“A lack of the best legal advice and expert opinion accounts for more than 50% of all the issues that come across our desk”
“To be exact, it accounts for more than 50% of all the issues that come across our desk,” he explains. “The venues don’t have the money or the information to get good advice, so they either do nothing – which is terrible – or they do the wrong thing – which is even worse – and then we find out about it and, by then, it’s already a massive problem.
“We changed the National Planning Framework to protect music venues in January 2015. The number of times this has been referenced by local lawyers or anybody else objecting to a planning application is almost exactly zero. So we need to put in place a national team who know this issue inside out and make it available to everyone.”
Tickets for Fightback will be available from Monday from the Roundhouse website, with early-bird tickets priced at £10. The price will increase as artists are confirmed.
Techno hedonism is high culture, says Berlin court
As London mourns the death of Fabric and Chicago’s small venues fail to convince local authorities live music is fine art, some good news from Germany: A Brandenburg court has ruled that Berghain, the 1,600-capacity Berlin nightclub widely regarded as the world capital of techno, is a place of cultural significance and thus entitled to a tax break.
In the past Berghain (pictured) would pay tax of 7% on its earnings – the same rate as museums, theatre and concert venues. However, in 2009 German tax authorities decreed clubs should be taxed at 19% as regular ‘entertainment events’, reports Der Spiegel, arguing Berghain is a place where people dance, drink and take drugs – “ruled by entertainment, not by culture” – and could not be classed as a concert venue as it has no stage.
Taking their case to the financial court of Berlin-Brandenburg, club management hit back that the same logic could be applied to a classical concerto. Berghain’s line of argument evidently held water in the eyes of the court, which agreed the club hosts cultural events and should be taxed as such.
Fabric and the battle for London’s future
Another venue in London has closed, falling foul of an ever growing list of challenges.
Archaic licensing laws and unattainable licensing conditions, a rising population and a growth in demand for property, meaning higher rents and huge development potential on land holdings, rising business rates, lack of subsidies and little protection from planning laws, are all challenges for venues from pubs to clubs.
The decision on 6 September on the future of Fabric isn’t just about one venue – this is about the future of London. This is about protecting an institution. This is about London remaining one of the greatest cities in the world. This is about nurturing London as a hive of art, music and culture. When one venue closes, it isn’t a simple case of swapping a new one in. In five years’ time, the night tube will transport nothing but the ghosts of London’s clubbing past if we don’t act now to protect our livelihoods.
Venues tread a very careful line. Of course a venue must be profitable to stay open, but do we do this because we love long hours, finger-pointing and accusation? No – we do it because we are in love with it. We facilitate people having fun.
We strive to be the best we can be, but we can only ever be as good as our last bad night. When we run an event without incident, those nights aren’t remembered because they don’t get recorded as statistics or crime figures. There is sometimes a too much of a focus on the negatives, but really we should be looking at all the positives – the provision of safe places with security, medics on standby, regulated drink sales and curfews.
Take away London’s soul, its beating heart, and we’ll be left with nothing but a sad NIMBY dystopia that I want no part of”
We deal with the public, with the chaos that is the human condition, with all its idiocy and foolish decision making. We can put into place as many operational processes as we like, at whatever cost, but no venue that exists in the past, present or future is ever going to be able to prevent people doing silly things. If people want to get illegal substances into a venue, they will. Closing down every late venue in the country won’t stop people taking drugs – it’s an ingrained part of modern culture. Perhaps the focus should be on balanced education rather than trying to make it disappear?
We have a good relationship with our local authority and the police, working closely with them and benefitting from their experience, knowledge and advice. The only way we move past this impasse is by working together. Ongoing discussion, debate, instruction and the sharing of ideas should be the focus, rather than the overhanging threat of licence reviews.
Don’t we all want a diverse, interesting and fulfilling life, full of music, dancing and laughter? I love this city, and I never want to fall out of love with it. Take away its soul, its beating heart, and we’ll be left with nothing but a sad NIMBY dystopia that I want no part of.
London has lost yet another cog in its night-time economy – one less place for locals, students and tourists to let off steam, meet friends, have new experiences, make mistakes, learn, find a partner, discover new music, put the world to rights, create new memories and simply live life.
Tom Sutton-Roberts is general manager of the Troxy, a 3,100-capacity music and events venue and art-deco former cinema in Stepney, east London.
Fabric closed: “A dangerous, disastrous decision”
Fabric, arguably Britain’s best-known nightclub, is to close after having its licence revoked by Islington Borough Council.
The north London council’s decision, passed after a six-hour debate by ‘Licensing Sub-Committee A’ last night, found a “culture of drug use” exists at the 2,500-capacity superclub which “security appears incapable of controlling”.
The latest licensing review was triggered by the deaths of two 18-year-old clubgoers, on 25 June and 6 August, who had taken MDMA they purchased inside the club. The council says people entering Fabric were “inadequately searched” and that security was “grossly inadequate in light of the overwhelming evidence […] that patrons in the club were on drugs and manifesting symptoms showing that they were”, including “sweating, glazed red eyes and staring into space and people asking for help”.
It adds that undercover police officers witnessed, during an undercover visit to the club on 2 July, “open drug use at the premises, with drugs being offered for sale”.
Fabric’s last licence review, in December 2014, saw the club keep its licence but compelled it to pay for drug-detecting sniffer dogs and implement more stringent searches and ID checks.
“Closing Fabric … sets a troubling precedent for the future of London’s night-time economy”
In a statement, the club says it is “extremely disappointed with Islington Council’s decision to revoke our license”.
“This is an especially sad day for those who have supported us, particularly the 250 staff who will now lose their jobs,” it adds. “Closing Fabric is not the answer to the drug-related problems clubs like ours are working to prevent, and sets a troubling precedent for the future of London’s night-time economy.”
Speaking to IQ, Columbo Group director Steve Ball – who earlier this week warned London’s nightlife is under threat from “NIMBYish” local authorities who “don’t want [music] venues” – calls the ruling “incredibly sad for all involved”, while the Evening Standard reports Alan Miller of the Night Time Industries Association, addressing a crowd of around 60 supporters at Islington Town Hall, said: “This is not the end of the story. This is just the beginning. We are going to call on people to contribute funds in a grassroots national movement to lobby their MP and councillors to say enough is enough.
“If it wasn’t for places like Fabric we would have none of our cultural assets – where we get inspired, where we fall in love. We are going to challenge this. It is unacceptable. We are going to put a crowdfunder statement out and we are going self-finance and support a fund to fight for Fabric and everyone in the industry because when they come for you they come for all of us.”
“It hangs a great big closed sign to the world and makes London look horribly insular today. A dangerous, disastrous decision for London nightlife”
Alex Proud, owner of rival club Proud Camden (1,000-cap.), tells the Standard: “This is a disaster for London’s clubbing scene and our nightlife. It hangs a great big closed sign to the world and makes London look horribly insular today. Fabric was a gold standard in how well-run it was.
“It’s a dangerous, disastrous decision for London nightlife.”
DJ Mag, meanwhile, comments that Islington “grossly misrepresented” Fabric in the licensing review. “Highest security bill in the UK,” it tweeted. Two Glastonbury Festival’s [sic] worth attend Fabric each year.”
In a statement issued this morning, mayor Sadiq Khan, who has been vocal in his support for the club, said: “I’m disappointed that Fabric, Islington Council and the Metropolitan Police were unable to reach agreement on how to address concerns about public safety. […] Over the past eight years, London has lost 50% of its nightclubs and 40% of its live music venues. This decline must stop if London is to retain its status as a 24-hour city with a world-class nightlife.”
Reactions are also pouring in from musicians, DJs, industry figures and companies close to Fabric, among them Four Tet, Chase & Status, Heidi Van Den Amstel and Ticketmaster’s TicketWeb, of which Fabric was a client.
Pure sadness about Fabric. London is being ruined right now.
— Four Tet (@FourTet) September 7, 2016
Sendin all my love❤️ & respect 2 everyone who worked at fabric. The most professional club I've had the pleasure 2 dance & DJ in. Travesty.😥
— Heidi (@djheidi) September 7, 2016
Echoing what many others have said – We're all deeply disappointed and frustrated at the decision to revoke Fabric's licence. #SaveFabric
— TicketWeb UK 🤘 (@TicketWebUK) September 7, 2016
This article will be updated with more reactions from industry figures as we receive them.
London Mayor comments on Fabric closure
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has urged the owners of London club Fabric, the Metropolitan Police and Islington Council to find an approach that protects both clubbers’ safety and the future of the club as it stays closed for a second weekend.
On Friday, Fabric cancelled its weekend’s programme following the deaths of two teenagers as a result of drug overdoses at the venue over the last nine weeks.
According to the BBC, one man collapsed outside the venue at 08:20 BST on August 6th and later died in hospital. The other man had collapsed and died nine weeks previously.
Following the deaths, the Metropolitan Police asked for the nightclub’s licence to be reviewed. Islington Council, which grants Fabric’s licence, had requested that it be suspended.
Yesterday, the venue confirmed that operations would continue to be suspended for a second weekend while the Met Police Service and “other agencies” investigated the recent incident.
DJ Sasha asked Khan to “listen to pleas from DJs all around the world to help Fabric reopen. London needs Fabric,” he said on Twitter.
“I’m urging Fabric, the Met [Police] and Islington [Council] to find an approach that protects clubbers’ safety & the future of the club.”
Khan tweeted in response: “I’m urging #Fabric, the Met & Islington to find an approach that protects clubbers’ safety & the future of the club.”
The post on Fabric’s website reads: “As many of you will be aware, last weekend we agreed with the Metropolitan Police Service and other agencies to close the club in order to investigate an incident which recently occurred at our venue.
“Further to the statement issued by the MPS last Friday, we can confirm that our operation remains suspended. The club will therefore be closed again this weekend.
“We will make a further statement when we have more information, but in the meantime for anyone who has purchased a ticket for the club this weekend, we have instructed Resident Advisor to refund all ticket purchases.”