One of the leaders of a last-gasp fight to save pioneering dance club Fabric has warned that an engine room of British music culture is on the verge of being lost forever. Dan Coshan, a former director, manager and license holder at the venue, has joined hundreds of thousands of clubbers in a campaign to reopen its doors before heavy financial losses mean it shuts down for good.
Dan was left in "complete and utter disbelief" at the council hearing where it was decided to revoke the club's licence which he believes will have a far wider impact.
"The Fabric license is the tip of the iceberg as the decision highlighted a deep-rooted and narrow-minded attitude towards nightlife," he said. "While I was there we got a lot of support from the police and the council, and there was a very forward-thinking and active stance as to how a large-scale nightclub could be integrated into the business community. Then, something changed. It started tipping in about 2014 and this year it all collapsed."
Dan was general manager and then operations director between 2000 and 2010 and chaired Clerkenwell Pubwatch for 10 years. He worked closely with the police and the club was even used to train sniffer dogs. "Fabric has processed six-and-a-half-million people over a 17-year period, which is a pretty much unblemished record versus footfall, making it one of the safest and best-managed venues in the world," he told me. "But the way the police and the council now look at it they consider Fabric's license versus the Dog and Duck's license. Therefore Fabric is always going to come at the top of some naughty list. Yet we were left with 10 minutes to put our case at the hearing. It was an absolute whitewash."
The decision by three Islington councillors followed an eight-hour review hearing where Dan feels Fabric's management were not given time to fully address the charges against them. He put it thus, "We were all there in the courtroom side by side, shoulder by shoulder, for an eight-hour period. I ended up sleeping on the floor at Euston station. It's simply because it's that important. I didn't feel bitterness at the decision, just complete and utter disbelief."
The decision followed the drug-related deaths of two teenagers who attended Fabric over the summer. "The death of those two young men, who took those drugs of their own volition, is tragic and their families will be going through hell, Dan says, before adding, "But I know the club's managers are also going through hell knowing it happened on their watch. No one died at the club, they died in hospital, but no one will have taken it more seriously than those guys.
"The police were suggesting Fabric was glossing over the deaths but that wasn't the case. The fact of the matter is you're looking at the benchmark of UK if not global clubbing over a 17-year period and they're basing this revocation on a period spanning a few months."
The restaurateur, 39, is helping to spearhead a fightback, with an appeal planned against the decision and more than 150,000 people signing a petition to save the club. A crowdfunding appeal has been set up to pay legal fees and some staff and venue costs. A vigil is being held by London clubs on Saturday with a five-minute silence for all venues that have shut recently.
Dan said: "There's a fight to clear Fabric's name and a fight to reverse the decision. It's vital to youth culture as a whole. If you talk to any venue operator they will cite Fabric as the benchmark for its music, security and management policies. If Fabric is able is unable to exist, who are these operators who will give us this vibrant nightlife that we so desperately need at a time when the Mayor of London is trying to make it a 24-hour city? There is no single set of procedures to stop loss of life, you're just never going to get 100 per cent drug safety in a nightclub."
The father-of-three has written four times to Cllr Flora Williamson, the head of the committee, and not received a reply.
He warns the reverberations of losing "a little disco in EC1" will spread far beyond its walls. "It's a lot bigger than revoking the licence of a nightclub in a provincial town," Dan said. "This is Fabric, it has 250 employees, catered for six-and-a-half-million people over 17 years and has its own record label, cab company and security firm. John Peel's only ever piece of recorded work was an album for Fabric and many famous acts met there. Back in the day when Ken Livingstone was mayor there weren't enough cabs to get everybody home. What does Fabric do? Start its own licensed cab firm. We had 300 licensed cabbies on the books."
Dan estimates the club will have lost £500,000 since its doors were forced to close and time is fast running out before a driver of British youth and music culture is lost forever. The void is being felt by everyone from superstar DJs to the club's cleaning staff.
"The bar staff, the cleaners, they were the unsung heroes," says Dan. "They were the ones in the public gallery and in front of the doors after the hearing sobbing their hearts out. These are young kids that absolutely believe in it. Going round as an ex-manager and director I was hugging people, their hearts were broken. With the best will in the world you can keep some of them on but they need to get bills paid and that's why most of them have been let go."
By way of closing he adds that, "We all started out as a collective wanting a place that like-minded people could go to enjoy music. We're like family, I could have worked for Fabric forever. We have an emotional as well as a financial attachment to the club that goes far beyond its physical walls. If it goes we've lost everything."