Having spent the last 7 years working for “exclusive nightclubs” in London, it gives me a certain authority to be able to comment on the scene itself and the direction in which is going. With the recent worldwide press attention surrounding apparent “racism” at top London club DSTRKT, it has brought even more attention onto an industry that has for years been getting away with blatant discrimination, and less than moral business practices…
To give you some background as to my experience working in the industry, I found myself involved after replying to a gumtree advert as a naive 19 year old which was looking for “freelance promoters”, promising me “huge potential earnings”, as well as benefits that included, “free drinks all night” and the opportunity to party with “A-list celebrities”. I was unemployed at the time, so this sounded like the perfect job? I like getting drunk, free booze is fun? And I can make shit loads of cash doing it, a no-brainer I thought, so I replied straight away and before I knew it I was emailed the flyers for my first event, “Wednesdays at The Mayfair Club” a venue which is amazingly still around to this day.
That very night, I managed to blag the entire cast of Big Brother to come down after sweet talking an agent from Jonathan Shalit who was representing them at the time, and from that day, I had made a small name for myself which soon developed into a successful career working with every exclusive venue in London, from Mahiki to Boujis under my “Velvet PR” brand.
It was at the start of 2015, after the craziness of the build up to NYE which unsurprisingly is the biggest payday of the year, and during the January hangover, that I decided this was not an industry I felt comfortable in for many reasons that I shall discuss shortly.
When I started in the industry, clubbing was really just about having fun, yes it was our job to host guests and provide them with drinks this was a perk of the job, but gradually as the years progressed, this soon became the focal point for most guests as to whether they would decide to attend the event or not, It became far less about which DJ was playing, or what “hook” was on that night, but more about “how many drinks will I get?”, and “are we in VIP” . This soon got to the point where as more “promoters” joined the industry, it turned into an auction as to whether you would get that big birthday party or not.
New promoters to the game quickly realised that, the more they offer the better chance they have of securing the booking, to the point where I was actually sent emails from guests that had been emailed by other promoters offering them everything from “10 Cristal” to “unlimited drinks” and being used as a bargaining tool to get more out of me, which as any nightclub owner will agree, is totally un-sustainable and far from a logical business model. Ultimately these offers were bullshit, but the promoter got the guests through the door and they were paid their commission, and they could simply find new “victims” the following weekend.
This soon became worse, when guests began cottoning on to the fact that their custom had value and with so many promoters fighting for their party or group, they were in a strong position to rinse a promoter or venue for everything they could get. Luckily, I was in a slightly better position than most other promoters, as I was already established at Aura Mayfair and as I had been working with them by this point for 4 years, I was looked after very well.
It was when Aura closed mid-way through 2014 due to ridiculous restrictions being placed on the venue from Westminster council, that I was back to square one and in search of a new venue to build my relationship with. It wasn’t that hard to find a new venue as my name now had a bit of weight to it in the industry, but it was really around this time that I saw just how other venues in London worked, it was a truly depressing experience and the reason why I sold-up and got out before it was too late.
Racism and discrimination at clubs in London has been going since I can remember; ethnic minorities, particularly “asians” of Indian descent, were likely to be rejected on the guestlist due to reasons which were explained to me by a club I was working with at the time with a sweeping generalisation ,
“They can’t handle their drink, they get aggressive and they don’t look good”.
The chances of a group of Asians above a group size of 3-4 actually making it past the velvet rope at the time was basically 2%, and should any “slip through the net” and turn up at the venue, they would always be given the excuse that “the promoter has not put you on the list”, which meant that venues could (and still do) effectively get away with any responsibility for turning guests away, shifting the blame onto the promoter, which ironically got me punched in the head a few times by an angry guests who’s birthday I had ruined.
This became a weekly occurrence where I would spend most nights either hiding from being murdered, or pleading with the door staff to allow a group in who’s birthday I had spent the past few weeks arranging to no-avail. It just wasn’t fun anymore, and by the start of 2015 there were now so many promoters saturating the market employing dirty tactics such as; pretending they work for the venue and telling guests who were already in the queue that the guestlist they were on was closed and they had to mention their name at the door (so they would get paid), right through to loitering outside the tube station and taking the guests before they actually made it to the club.
On a guestlist of 50 people I would have every night, I would have been lucky if 20 of them actually made it to the club without being “stolen” and off those 20 guests, maybe 10 would actually make it into the venue and not being turned away for having a “fat one” in the group, or if the colour of their skin was anything darker than a light tan.
All of these things combined made the decision to leave an industry I used to love, quite a simple choice and I have no regrets at not being part of it anymore, although the money was good, very good, so its easy to see why people are attracted to club promoting as a career choice.
The furore over DSTRKT has now died down and they are back to business as normal, no doubt doing even better than before due to the exposure they received, any publicity is good publicity right? Whether you like it or not, the small 10% of the big table spenders in London are the ones that keep the clubs afloat, and they go to these clubs specifically because they want to be surrounded by “fake tanned, fake titt’d, tacky, selfie loving, narcissistic trollops” to make their table look good.
What will the industry look like next year? I can only predict that due to ever increasing restrictions by councils and more revelations that will inevitably surface in the media regarding discriminatory business practises, clubs will slowly start closing one by one. Ultimately, the clubs license is the most valuable asset to a venue and all of those $10,000 dollar tables you get on the weekends will be irrelevant when you are forced to close your doors..
The Future Of London Nightclubs, it looks very bleak…