Two months before the iconic London nightclub Fabric was forced to close, local police conducted an undercover operation there, investigating alleged drug use. Reports from that operation, first obtained by The Independent via a Freedom of Information request, don’t exonerate Fabric from those allegations, but they do make it sound like a pretty fun place to go out dancing.
The Islington Council, which issued the order to permanently revoke Fabric’s license to operate, said in a formal statement that it decided to do so because of two apparently drug-related deaths on the premises recently, and because of other deaths on the premises in 2014. The council also made a number of less specific claims against Fabric, such as that the “people entering the club were inadequately searched,” and that staff should have noticed “overwhelming evidence” that clubgoers were on drugs and exhibiting symptoms like “sweating, glazed red eyes and staring into space.”
Those lesser allegations were the result of a Metropolitan Police undercover investigation into Fabric from July, which was known internally as Operation Lenor. As the Independent helpfully notes in its story about the police reports, Lenor is the name of a… fabric softener brand. (Get it? You get it.) You can read the full police reports here.
Operation Lenor took place in July, after the first of the two recent deaths, and consisted of a group of officers attending Fabric in plain clothes and observing what they saw. These officers did find what seemed like hard evidence of drug use—there’s mention of a bag with white powder residue inside found in a bathroom, and of attendees openly asking about getting some MDMA—but they also seemed to have made a number of inferences about people who may have just been really enjoying whatever tech-house or drum-n-bass records were playing that night. Here’s one excerpt:
We then made our way back to room 2, on our way Pc [REDACTED] pointed out a young IC1 male [REDACTED] who appeared extremely intoxicated; no one from the club approached him to check on him… As the night went on people in the club appeared more intoxicated, they were sweating profusely and were staring into space, their eyes were glazed and red and they were drinking water. These people were not approached at any time by door staff or in the club.
(“IC1 male” refers to a white male in British police parlance, and “Pc” refers to patrol constable, the British equivalent of an ordinary police officer.) If you’re not sweaty and staring into space at some point during your night out, are you really clubbing at all?
Here the report investigates why a club patron might be “animated”:
We then went back into towards the dance floor area in Room 2. On my way there I saw young, perhaps 18 year old, male with [REDACTED]. He was stumbling through the club in an almost catatonic state. His eyes were almost closed, and he was bumping into people as he made his way through the dance floor. There were members of staff, with torches, who were an almost constant presence on the dance floor. They appeared to be looking for discarded glasses though did not appear to pay much attention to the patrons. One passed the [REDACTED] male, though did not intervene to check on his welfare. About 15 minutes later I saw the same male almost bouncing through the crowd. is behaviour was on the opposite extreme and he was extremely agitated and animated. I believe the result of this stimulation was likely to be chemical.
The officers also took issue with the low lighting at Fabric–the club was lit, but not well-lit, so to speak. But if low lighting is evidence that a club should be closed, it’s hard to imagine any club anywhere being allowed to stay open.
The club was not very well lit, there were a number of raised areas within room 2 which also went back approximately 2 meters and these were not lit up either. There were other small cubby holes which are obscured from the main room by walls and were not lit up. The smoking area was not well managed and there were not many door staff around to monitor loitering as per licensing conditions.
All in all, though, it sounds like it the cops had a delightful night out on the town, with a cosmopolitan, almost utopian crowd:
At this point the club became much more busy, and the crowd denser. The demographic was young and I heard mostly Italian, Spanish, German, and Mandarin Chinese being spoken in addition to English. There were several groups, of mostly young males, who did look particularly young. The crowd was good-natured and peaceful though, despite not many people having alcoholic drinks in their hands, many appeared quite heavily intoxicated. Their eyes were glazed and their gait and movement indicative of intoxication.
A petition urging the council to reconsider its decision has about 150,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning. London mayor Sadiq Khan pledged his support for Fabric as well, but added that his office does not have formal power to intervene in the case.
— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) September 7, 2016
“London’s iconic clubs are an essential part of our cultural landscape. As Mayor, I’m determined to do more to protect them, as well as our theatres, live music venues, artists workspaces, historic buildings and pubs…I am committed to using the influence of my office to overcome the numerous challenges facing the night time economy,” Khan wrote in a statement. “However, it is important to note that City Hall does not have the power to intervene in licensing cases like the current situation with Fabric.”