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Fabric reopens with strict new entry policy banning 18-year-olds

PUBLISHED: 15:28 21 November 2016 | UPDATED: 11:40 22 November 2016

The iconic Farringdon club replaced its sign with an advert for the #savefabric campaign in the wake of Islington Council's licensing condition. Picture: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

The iconic Farringdon club replaced its sign with an advert for the #savefabric campaign in the wake of Islington Council's licensing condition. Picture: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

PA Wire/PA Images

Farringdon “superclub” Fabric will reopen, it was confirmed this afternoon – but 18-year-olds will be banned.

A petition to 'save' Fabric notched up 160,000 signatures. Picture: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire A petition to 'save' Fabric notched up 160,000 signatures. Picture: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

The world-famous Charterhouse Street club has agreed comprehensive new operating procedures with Islington Council, having been shut down in September after two 18-year-olds died of drug overdoses this summer.

It was due to appeal at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court next week – but lawyers instead struck a deal with the council in private, only leaving district judge Robin McPhee to rubber-stamp the new policy this afternoon.

In a joint statement with Islington Council, Fabric said: “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.”

Handing down his decision, Judge McPhee told the court: “The parties have persuaded me that they worked together to create workable conditions to prevent drug use and supply within the premises.

Fabric in 2016. Picture: Danny Seaton Fabric in 2016. Picture: Danny Seaton

“I am satisfied they have paid regard to the concerns of the police and public. The premises should be allowed to open once more.”

Under the new terms, specialist roles have been created to prevent drugs entering the venue, and to help anyone showing signs of illness inside.

Meanwhile, anyone under the age of 19 will not be allowed in and anyone found in possession of drugs, or who tries to deal drugs, will be banned from the club for life.

ID scanners – which the club successfully appealed installing against at the end of 2015 – will also be used on the door.

Philip Kolvin, representing the club, told Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court: “My client decided to take a root and branch reappraisal of its processes and procedures. It has produced a new 155-page operating manual. Promoting licensing objectives is the responsibility of everyone from junior to senior. Fabric shares exactly the same goals as the authorities.”

Raujit Bhose, for the council, said: “What the council has been concerned with is whether Fabric can operate with a true zero tolerance towards drugs.

Licensing barrister Philip Kolvin outside Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court after the decision this afternoon to re-open Fabric. Picture: Polly Hancock Licensing barrister Philip Kolvin outside Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court after the decision this afternoon to re-open Fabric. Picture: Polly Hancock

“We are now satisfied revocation of the licence is not necessary. Fabric has accepted procedure for searching and drug dealing within the club were not sufficient. It has now accepted 38 new conditions as well as its 155-page operating manual. The authority is satisfied Fabric understands what has to be done.”

Features of Fabric’s new operating manual include:

- a designated “premises supervisor”;

- new posts of head of welfare, head of security and search captains;

- a new welfare team trained by Loop to spot signs of clubbers’ vulnerability;

- a CCTV controller to watch a live feed and spot any criminal activity;

- all 250 staff to receive drug awareness training;

- ID scanners at entry to premises;

- U19s not permitted entry.

The Fabric and Islington Council statement adds: “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.

“In the light of Fabric’s acceptance that there have been failings, and given the commitment that its directors and management have shown by their development of the operations manual and acceptance of these new conditions, the authority is now satisfied that the statutory licensing objectives may be met short of revocation of the premises licence.

“It is for these reasons that it has decided not to oppose Fabric’s appeal. Fabric Life will pay Islington’s costs in these proceedings directly and not from the monies pledged by supporters.

“For its part, Fabric understands and accepts that the additional conditions it has agreed to are meaningless unless its operational practices ensure each of them is complied with. Its directors and management remain committed to ensuring compliance. They are committed to ensuring the safety of their patrons.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who had urged Islington to find a solution that enabled the club to stay open, said: “I’m delighted that an agreement has been reached and that Fabric will now reopen

“We needed to find a common-sense solution that protects both the future of Fabric and the safety of all clubbers – and we have. I especially want to thank Islington Council for working so hard to help find a solution.

“The issues faced by Fabric point to a wider problem of how we protect London’s night-time economy, while ensuring it is safe and enjoyable for everyone. Over the past eight years, London has lost 50 per cent of its nightclubs and 40pc 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.”

Supt Nick Davies from Islington police added cops will be “monitoring” Fabric’s conduct.

“If there are further breaches of the licence, Fabric should be in no doubt that they will be challenged by Islington police and action taken,” he said.

“I know Fabric is a venue that holds a great deal of affection in people’s hearts. We had no choice but to take action to safeguard clubbers and now Fabric has agreed to considerable changes I hope the venue can continue to operate for many years to come within the boundaries of the new licensing conditions.”

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