London Falling: Nightlife Under Siege In English Capital

by BILLY GRAY · February 23, 2010

"When it's 3:00 in New York, it's still 1938 in London," the wise Bette Midler once said. The good news is New York is still ahead of the curve. The bad news is that curve now involves curbing fun, as London starts following New York's lead in shutting down the city's most popular nightlife venues.

Global nightclub bible Resident Advisor notes it's been a rubbish week for the London nocturne.

First, development plans threatened the survival of South Bank mainstay Ministry of Sound (which boasted the U.K.'s first 24-hour dance license when it opened in 1991). Then, police slapped Plastic People, a popular joint in  Shoreditch (think Williamsburg with a British accent that renders it slightly less annoying), with a notice citing "Prevention of Public Nuisance and Crime" as reasons behind an attempt to shutter that venue (as early as next month).

And yesterday, seOne--the Old Smoke's biggest club with a 3,000 person capacity--officially closed its transformed railway arch doors after eight years beneath London Bridge Station. "Designated Premises Supervisor" Marcus Kay blamed the closure on that pesky worldwide recession, saying:

“After eight long, hard and exciting years, seOne London has fallen victim to the recession and hard times felt in nightclubs all over the UK. I would like to thank all the promoters, DJ’s, clubbers, staff, suppliers and anyone who has worked and partied in these now Legendary railway arches.”

Greedy real estate developers bulldozing cultural venues? Stick-in-the-mud cops ruining everyone's good time? A crap economy killing off local treasures?

Sound familiar? If not, Beatrice Inn and Jane Ballroom might ring a bell. And, going back further to the type of places endangered across the pond (the kind that's less nichey and a lot more fun), try to recall Twilo, Limelight and other iconic spots that were less about posing for party photographers and more about going crazy.

Hopefully, Ministry of Sound and Plastic People will avoid the guillotine. If London's nightlife becomes as watered down as New York's, where will we all travel to in search of a proper night out?