Before sunrise: a new dawn for Croydon’s night-time economy?

By - Wednesday 20th May, 2015

Lauren Furey calls for a nightclub resurrection

The election is over and Gavin Barwell retained his seat as MP for Croydon Central – just. In the grand scheme of things, it means that we’re not likely to see any drastic changes as we continue in the same vein.

The modern developments will continue to flourish and transform Croydon’s landscape. Businesses will open and others will surely close their doors. Familiar sights will give way to new projects that aim to bring people back to Croydon and change the current negative perception. You just can’t please everyone, so some will relish change and others revile it. Some even believe that Croydon is beyond repair. But whatever your opinion, Croydon will change drastically.

Everyone has their own story of nightclub heartache

The Citizen’s ‘I would make Croydon better by…’ section consistently features strong support for cultural events, celebrating diversity, creating a positive image, communication and social development. The people of Croydon regularly submit these ideas because they care and want to effect positive change. We should be allowed to talk honestly and openly about the things that we believe need to change in order to retain our heritage, our community and bring us into our future as a developing London borough.

Something that has always frustrated me is the neglect that Croydon’s nightlife has experienced in recent years. Everyone has their own stories of nightclub heartache, from the closure of the Blue Orchid to the Black Sheep, but one thing is very clear – a closed club is not replaced by another. Look in any direction in central Croydon and you will see an abandoned building that used to be a nightclub: the Roxbury, Black Sheep Bar, Banana Joe’s, Blue Orchid and, more recently, Yates.

I don’t know anyone who plans a big night out in Croydon these days

What bothers me most of all is not just the closures but the obvious benefits of having a selection of good clubs in Croydon. As the town continues to develop and improve in areas like housing and retail, why not throw some light on the frankly dead offerings on Friday and Saturday nights? I don’t know anyone, these days, who plans for a big night out in Croydon anymore.

Croydon is minutes from central London but has the great benefit of not being central London. You wouldn’t be expected to pay bank-busting prices for a pint or lose your cab fare on a club’s entry fee. Croydon also happens to be the birthplace of dubstep – the fusion of Jamaican dub and two-step garage – and yet there’s absolutely zilch to show for it. So why isn’t Croydon embracing this opportunity, in a time of change, to rejuvenate the club scene?

Aside from the fact that there’s continuing uncertainty about the future of many of Croydon’s empty buildings, there’s also the issue of local government. A couple of months ago, I discussed Croydon’s lacklustre nightlife with a local club owner. As it turns out, the problem is a little more complicated than I’d anticipated. “For starters, there’s a curfew. So you couldn’t expect to bring in some of the bigger events. Plus, there’s the police presence. Club owners just don’t want to have to fork out for additional security. There are too many barriers and costs to put on a truly great club experience.”

Varied venues to dance until dawn in… why isn’t this on the cards?

It’s true. You can’t say that you haven’t seen the herd of bobbies outside Tiger Tiger but does it mean that Croydon just cannot be trusted to have a nightlife of its own anymore? I support many of Croydon’s bars and pubs – we know how to run a good one and there’s an understanding that we’ll always have a place to enjoy a few bevvies after a long week’s work. I take issue with the fact that having a selection of varied venues to dance till the sun rises in is just not on the cards.

I would welcome a place where we could enjoy regular events, supporting a variety of musical tastes, and which would allow Cronx folk, and beyond, to enjoy a genuinely memorable night out. I can think of a number of venues around London that seem to have secured this vision and, with Croydon on the mend, it only seems right that we should have something special of our own.

There’s cathartic joy in spending a night out with friends

But there are some who feel that an expansion of Croydon’s clubbing options could create a dangerous and potentially hostile atmosphere – one that might genuinely warrant the need for a heavier police presence. We have, over the years, seen a number of club closures due to violence. Others will feel that this call for change isn’t a current priority, and that’s understandable too. Perhaps Croydon has bigger fish to fry. But there’s still no denying the cathartic joy of a night out with friends, and Croydon just doesn’t have much to offer at the moment.

I’m not saying that there wouldn’t be any trouble, but there’s a right way to do these things. Imposing strict laws on how people enjoy their down time creates a feeling of hostility. How can you enjoy that pint with your mate when the boys in blue are glaring at you from the other side of the road? You feel like something is going to happen, even if it isn’t.

Croydon is maturing and, unless we’re given certain controls and an element of trust, we won’t be able to prove otherwise. The town’s current ambition seems firmly rooted in creating offices and housing that will bring in new people and new money. The Westfield shopping complex will create a brand new retail experience and there’s talk of a South Bank-style makeover around Fairfield Halls – but what about when the sun goes down?

People out there want to see positive changes. New venues, exciting events, DJs and live music – there are so many possibilities. Croydon, after dark, needs a positive revival.

Lauren Furey

Lauren Furey

I was born in Croydon in 1988 and I've spent my life here, building friendships and experiences that have shaped me as a person. As a Croydon native, I have a big passion for local events, arts, history and culture... and the dearly departed Mexway. I now work as a freelance writer.

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  • Joe

    Agreed, nightlife’s deteriorating rapidly in Croydon, but this will probably continue for the next five years until the town centre gets an adrenaline shot from Westfield and Ruskin Square. It’s not just nightlife, it’s everything else commercial too. Compare Northend now to what it used to be in 2010, the money’s moving out during this pre-gentrification limbo.

    You’re right about the feds too, they act like Gestapo on a Saturday night.

  • Saif Bonar

    Lauren, a topic I have wanted to write about (or at least comment on) for a while.

    While there isn’t a simple explanation as to why the scene has been dying in Croydon, from my experience having operated a licensed premises for almost three years I don’t expect it will see a resurgence locally anytime soon.

    From a licensing and policing perspective, things are headed in the right direction. The Met Police and local authority licensing departments do not want the town centre over-run with nightclubs offering Dub-step, House Music, Reggae or anything like it.

    To quote a former licensing officer “We don’t want that sort of music or the sort it attracts.”

    Venue operators lucky enough to obtain a licence in the first place must obtain clearance from a special division of Operation Trident at Charing Cross Police Station for any DJ led event which promotes specific genres of music: House, R n’ B, Dubsteb, Reggae, Ragga, Dancehall, Grime among a few others. This involves police background checks on all the DJs together with the event promoter.

    Even if the Operation Trident team give clearance for the event, any promoter or premises owner may well be asked not to let the event go ahead at short notice. Failing to comply isn’t taken lightly.

    If you add to that the difficulty anyone would face to find a retail outlet in West Croydon willing to display a poster or flyers for any of the same events because the licensing folks have paid them a visit and discouraged such behaviour and a pattern emerges, which, sorry to say it, is likely to mean your dreams on this front are unlikely to be realised any time soon.

    For now the most alternative music scene you can expect will be provided via Matthews Yard, The Oval Tavern, The Granaries or Soulful Cellar. The rest of the offering is wrapped up by a couple of chain pubcos churning out stale pop music and cheap booze like its going out of fashion..