By Luke Hildyard
Tonight, the Lambeth Council licensing committee will gather to decide the fate of a Brixton institution, the 414 nightclub on Coldharbour Lane.
The club has been closed since the morning of Thursday March 7 after a shooting – thankfully not fatal – occurred on the dancefloor during a private reggae party.
To anyone who has had anything to do with the venue over the course of its 25 year history, the news of the incident will be astounding. In nearly 100 testimonies on the Brixton Buzz website, there is not a single club regular who can recall any experience of even minor violence. Indeed, the only thing that is nearly as surprising as the shooting is that it occurred on a reggae night – 414 is more commonly associated with granite-hard techno.
For a late night licensed premise in an area like Brixton, a trouble-free record doesn’t come easily. That 414 has prospered for so long is to the credit of both the club itself, and its customers. 414 regulars recognise that there aren’t many other places that provide space for such an open-minded and resolutely anti-commercial scene (the George IV on Brixton Hill, now waiting forlornly to be occupied by Tesco, was one such venue) and have always done their utmost to create a unique and welcoming vibe.
The result was one of the most fun but unconventional places to go for a late night drink and dance in the whole of London.
It is difficult to see what would be gained if the Lambeth licensing committee decide that the violence last Thursday is grounds to shut down the 414 club. Will it prevent any future shootings, for example? Given that this was the only such incident at 414 in 25 years, while gun crime has been an observable problem in South London for some time, that seems unlikely.
Conversely, the potential loss to Brixton is all too apparent. 414 represents the original character of the area in a way that newer businesses never could, not because it’s dangerous or threatening or ‘edgy’ in anyway, but because it’s the sort of place that isn’t concerned with style or status or what people look like, so much as an independent spirit, good music and a good time. That’s the very essence of the Brixton night time economy, which is driving the regeneration of Lambeth while the Council take the plaudits.
The Licensing Committee should bear this in mind when passing judgement on a local business that has put a lot into Brixton over a time period when it was not always fashionable to do so. If the committee is serious about keeping Brixton unique then 414 deserves a break.