Drugs

What's Stopping Stadium From Reopening Its Doors?

When rumors of Stadium's rebirth turned out to be false, it made us wonder, why can some shuttered nightclubs reopen and others can't?
July 6, 2018, 5:30pm
The front door of the now-shuttered Stadium nightclub. All photos by Dicho Rivan

Stadium is the only nightclub in Indonesia infamous enough to still make headlines four years after its end. The notorious club, once the center of West Jakarta's drug-fueled, free-wheeling nightlife, regularly packed out the 4,000-plus capacity, four-story space for massive all-night parties that lasted until well into the next day. Stadium was the kind of place you would stumble into at 2:30 in the morning only to emerge hours later, squinting in the blinding mid-day sun. It was an insane, debaucherous place that managed to attain a level of international fame few other clubs in Indonesia had achieved at the time, or ever since.


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And then it was all over. One night in May of 2014, a 22-year-old police officer visiting Jakarta from out of town overdosed on amphetamines and died inside. The police raided the place and discovered a staggering amount of drugs—including more than 4,000 Ecstasy pills and hundreds of grams of meth—stuffed inside some employee lockers.

It was the last straw for a club that had been warned twice in the past about its lax policy on drug sales—and use—inside. The city's then-governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama shut Stadium down, telling the press that the club was closed… forever.

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“We’ve warned them twice," Ahok, as he is known, told the press. "So we’ll shut it down."

But it was the tourism agency that clarified Ahok's statement and shut the doors on Stadium for good.

"They will never get a permit again for a nightclub," the governor's tourism agency head told local media, at the time.

Street vendors wait outside Stadium.

But is it true? Will the massive, beige, fortress-looking building off Jalan Hayam Wuruk never open its doors again? The city's clubgoers were asking the same thing earlier this week when a flyer for the reopening of another club, one right across the street, carried the Stadium logo. The authorities eventually had to step in and tell the public that the rumors weren't true. Stadium wasn't reopening with a new name. Instead, it was just the latest iteration of Illigals, another infamous club located right across the street that was shut down after police discovered that, surprise, illegal shit was happening inside.

That club, and yes, it's spelled "Illigals," not "Illegals," received numerous warnings in the past for allowing drug use on the premises. During one raid, the anti-drug agency (BNN) discovered 1,000 Ecstasy pills. Then, in February, a retired government official was arrested buying meth from a man employed by the club. It seemed like it was the end for the brazenly named nightclub.

“BNN Jakarta caught a drug dealer in Illigals," Sulistiandriatmoko, a spokesman for the BNN, told CNN Indonesia. "There was evidence of drug use, so it should have been closed down too."

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But in the time between Stadium's closure and the arrests at Illigals, the city's administration had changed. Former Governor Ahok, as he was popularly known, is now out of office and behind bars on charges that he insulted Islam. Under the city's new governor Anies Baswedan, a man who aligned himself with hardline Islamists during his polarizing campaign, Illigals was only shut down temporarily. It was barred from reopening with the same name, but it was able to keep its business license.

“Illigals wasn’t shut down permanently," explained Erick Halauwet, chairman of Jakarta Entertainment Entrepreneurs Association (Aspija). "They only stopped the operations. The name changed because they’ve faced drug cases before."

So, this week, Illigals reopened with a new name— 108: The New Atmosphere—and a new bizarre decorating motif. The old club once had a life-sized T-100 from Terminator inside. The new one has a model of a WW2-era fighter plane outside. Jakarta's public order agency (Satpol PP) was on-location during opening night and reported that, as far as they could see, the club was totally drug free.

The outside of 108, the new club inside the old Illigals.

But, in reality, Jakarta's nightlife is regulated by a convoluted web of government offices and police departments. It's up to the BNN to conduct raids, but the city police also get involved. The Jakarta Tourism and Culture Office monitors the city's nightlife, but it can't do much else. The police have to enforce a shutdown, and it's up to the city's "open-stop business agency," also known by the insane acronym "DPMPTSP," to revoke its business license if it consistently runs afoul of the law.

“We will warn them (the police) if there is a report from residents," explained Tinia Budiati, the head of Jakarta Tourism and Culture Office. "The revocation process is their (DPMPTSP's) job."

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During the Ahok administration, 10 nightclubs, all of them located in the same few blocks of Jalan Hayam Wuruk, received warning letters for allowing drug use. Some of them remain open. Others, like Mille's, Diamond, and MG, were shut down between 2014 and 2017.

The raids had a chilling effect on West Jakarta's nightlife scene. Anies had made the closure of another nightclub, North Jakarta's notorious high-end brothel Alexis Hotel, a campaign promise. Soon, that place was shut down too. Anies then continued, telling the press that he had a list of 36 other nightclubs that were really "drug dens," provided by the BNN. Old City was shut down a short while later. In the end, enough nightclubs were forced to close that it started to affect the city's tourism revenue, Tinia, of the tourism office, explained.

“Most of the nightclubs were closed in the last five years," she said. "This is not conducive for Jakarta’s nightlife."

It's also a bane on Jakarta's small business owners. Stadium used to bring thousands of people to a small street off Jalan Hayam Wuruk ever single weekend for some 16 years. When it was shut down, local food vendors—and the hundreds of people the club employed—felt the impact the most. One local vendor, a woman named Anjarwati who runs a food stall, told me that once the nightclubs shut their doors, her monthly profits dropped by half.

I asked her if she knew that Illigals was about to reopen.

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"Well, that's good news,” she said. “I hope more people come here if it's true Illigals is reopening. But I don’t think Stadium will."

Is she right? It's hard to tell. The issue at hand seems to be that Stadium's owners, the company that owns the building, were barred from getting a new license for a nightclub ever again. Now, that doesn't mean that another company couldn't open a new club in the same building, but the last time they tried to reopen with the name "The Legend," the application was rejected by Ahok's administration.

“They applied again under a new name," Ahok told local media at the time. “As long as there’s a possibility that the establishment will be used for drug abuse, then I won’t let it happen."

The same could be said of Diamond, a club that received its first warning letter in April of last year only to be shut down a few months later after Indra J. Piliang, a Golkar politician, was allegedly caught buying drugs inside. The police raided the place, but couldn't find any other drugs inside the club. Still, it was put on a months-long hiatus, and eventually closed for good.

It's the same story as Illigals, but, for some reason, Diamond was actually shut down while Illigals was allowed to rebrand and reopen. Why did Illigals get a second chance after being caught twice in violation of the law when others, like Diamond and Stadium, weren't? We really don't know.

And neither does Denny Wahyu, deputy head of the DPMPTSP, the very body in charge of revoking the business licenses of clubs caught allowing drug sales. He told VICE that he had no idea why Illigals was able to keep its business license.

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But Denny was still able to take a moment to explain to us how the whole process works. First, a club is caught violating the law, usually during a raid. Then the police, and the tourism agency, issue a recommendation to the DPMPTSP that the club lose its business license. Once they revoke the license, the police are allowed to go in and shut the place down.

The same company can always apply for other business licenses in the future, but never for the same club. The owners of a shuttered club instead need to figure out a new business to run. But, if the same club gets new management, and changes its name, then it can apply, and receive, a business license to reopen.

"They are considered blacklisted if the license is revoked,” Denny explained. “But it’s another thing if they change owners. The previous owner can’t open the same business."

Now, Illigals never even had its business license revoked. But even if it did, the club could still reopen with a new name as long as the management changed. So what about Stadium? The building could, theoretically, be used as anything but a nightclub by the same owners, or it could change hands and names and reopen as a club once again, as long as it can get a business license issued. But considering the amount of press that would likely get in Indonesia, it's doubtful anyone would actually let it happen, regardless of whether the regulations allowed it or not.

Stadium's current owners or its potential new ones could fight the denial, but, considering the building's past, would it really win? Who knows.

Add in the fact that Anies recently passed a new decree that gives his administration far more power in shutting places down than his predecessor, and the answer becomes even more elusive. I guess in a city like Jakarta, some places are just too notorious to ever be allowed to open their doors again.