In a decision described by Time Out as “a landmark ruling...unprecedented”, in February 2017 Lambeth Council granted a rare new nightclub licence permitting “Bloc South” to open in London’s famed Vauxhall Triangle until 05:00hrs over the weekends. The new venue will be operated by Wayne Shires, a leading contributor to London’s night-time economy and one of the principal organisers of Gay Pride and the Summer Rites festival. The new club, a sister venue to East Bloc in Shoreditch and Bloc Bar in Camden, will replace the troubled Club 65 which had its licence revoked in August 2016 following a well-publicised incident where door supervisors were shot at after aggressively removing customers.
At a hearing before Lambeth’s licensing sub-committee on 31 January 2017, there was overwhelming support for Mr Shires’ new LGBTQ-dedicated club from residents of Lambeth, the wider LGBT community, and public figures. Lord Brian Paddick, the former Police Borough Commander of Lambeth and candidate for London Mayor, wrote in support of the application indicating that:
“The sub-committee will be aware of trends in the LGBTQ community in recent years including the closing of many LGBTQ venues in London in general and South London in particular. There has also been a move to arranging to meet people ‘on line’ with the inherent dangers associated with not meeting in a neutral location first. In my opinion, there is a real need for ‘safe spaces’ for members of the LGBTQ community to meet and socialise and I believe Wayne’s application is timely and desirable.”
Mr Shires overcame objections to the application from all the responsible authorities who, whilst acknowledging Mr Shires’ reputation and track-record, relied on Lambeth Council’s “Hours Policy” requiring new nightclubs to close no later than 02:00hrs. The licensing sub-committee accepted that their policy was not intended to be applied inflexibly and they were prepared to make an exception given the individual circumstances of this application.
The grant of this new licence bucks recent trends in the nightclub industry, particularly in London. Between 2007-2015 nearly 50% of night-time venues have closed their doors including many iconic LGBTQ venues such as G-A-Y/Astoria and Madam JoJo’s. Witnesses at the Bloc South hearing, including London Assembly Member Andrew Boff, pointed out that the night-time economy contributes some £26 billion to London’s GDP and supported 1 in 8 jobs. When establishing the new Night Time Commission and appointing London’s first Night Czar, Mayor Sadiq Khan indicated:
“Around the world, cities are starting to re-evaluate their night time economies. There is growing recognition that there is increasing demand for a broader night time culture and entertainment offer. Many of the world's cultural metropolises are appointing 'Night Mayors' to champion, coordinate and bring innovation to their night time economies.”
Bloc South is expected to open in February 2017.
Bloc South was represented by Gary Grant, Barrister at Francis Taylor Building, instructed by Andrew Wong of Keystone Law.