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Defending London’s nightlife – and the small businesses it supports

This week saw the news that Fabric, one of London’s most well-known nightclubs, is to be closed down. Is this yet another case of London gentrification?
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The official reason for the closure is that the club has been unable to crackdown hard enough on drug users, and in recent months two 18 year-old boys have passed away after overdosing at the club.

There have been claims by some that the real reason is more mercenary. The Independent has speculated that the club’s closure could have been pre-planned by the government in “an attempt to attract foreign money”.

A spokesperson for Islington Council has denied this, saying: “The decision of Islington Council’s licensing committee on Fabric’s licence was based solely on the evidence, submissions, and representations put before the committee. To suggest anything else is simply wrong. For the avoidance of doubt, Islington Council is not the owner of the building and has no financial interest in the site.”

Whatever you believe the reason to be for the club’s closure however, the outpouring of frustration is difficult to argue with.

Anger towards the decision has been provoked by many things: closing a club down is unlikely to stop people taking drugs, too many London clubs have closed in recent years, it’s damaging to London’s nightlife – and what was the point of the night tube after all if there’s nowhere to go?

Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, has spoken out against the closure of the club, and tweeted his displeasure that in the last eight years London has lost 50 per cent of its nightclubs and 40 per cent of its live music venues.

Will the clubbing scene survive at all as councils seeks to gentrify their areas?

Manchester’s Hacienda club became a block of apartments, and Irvine Welsh was reported in the Guardian as saying the Arches club in Glasgow is becoming a hotel. Can we expect Fabric to go the same way? And if so, what happens to the small businesses it supported in the area?

Surrounding bars, cab companies and late night takeaway shops may experience a knock-on effect as the main local attraction is stripped away in place of more clean-cut, up market facilities.

There are arguments to be made in favour of gentrification – gentrified areas see more economic success and the average income in the area increases. There are more facilities available, and the area is kept cleaner and so on. But all of this comes at the cost of population migration as locals can struggle to keep up with soaring rent prices or property taxes.

Families and small business owners that have resided in an area for decades are suddenly priced out of the market and face upheaval. The space they have made their own and brought their own flavour to is no longer theirs.

With Fabric being closed down only this week, it is too early to call what will happen to the surrounding businesses – either as a direct loss of customers as fewer people frequent the area in the evenings, or as a long-term knock on effect of potential gentrification. It only remains for small businesses to adapt as they can to London’s ever-shifting cultural landscape.

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About Author

Letitia Booty

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Real Business. She has a BA in english literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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