The Vibe Bar closes: a sign of the times?

Vibe Bar. Photo: Ewan Munro on Flickr

Vibe Bar. Photo: Ewan Munro on Flickr

The Vibe Bar, renowned in Brick Lane for its concerts and parties is closing down after twenty years. Allan Miller, the owner of the bar, posted a heartfelt message on its Facebook page announcing the closure, noting increased issues with acquiring Temporary Event Notices that allow the bar to be open after 1 am.

“You may well see some press about recent issues in Brick Lane, and Tower Hamlets’ licensing” he wrote. “Indeed, we think that there has been an overly narrow minded and petty attitude of licensing and police that have imposed a curfew on anything beyond 1 am – preventing later night temporary extensions (TEN’s) for bars, clubs and even restaurants! This ultimately affects all of you, the public.”

However, he says that they are not bitter about the closure and that “hip” areas in London are constantly changing, coming and going: “Music & events have proven to be a catalyst for creativity in the whole post war period. From Carnaby Street in the Swinging Sixties, Kings Road in the Seventies, Camden in the Eighties and Brick Lane in the Nineties and Noughties… Night time activity brings together talent and youth from the worlds of fashion, art, business and technology all of course merging with the thing that touches our souls… music.”

The Vibe bar is not the only establishment forced to close in the last few months. The 93 Feet East bar across the street closed after last year’s operation Condor which saw police hit thousands of establishments and houses in 48 hours to reduce drug issues.

There is evidence that richer people are moving into these area with house prices rising in places such as Fournier street near Spitalfields. According to the Zoopla website, prices on this street have nearly quadrupled in ten years.

East London Lines asked Tower Hamlets Council if  stricter planning regulations are part of a wider plan to change the demographic of Brick Lane so that it fits better with  the new residents of such places as Fournier or Red Church street.

The council responded, saying:  “The planning and licensing regulations in Brick Lane have not changed. Bar owners and restaurateurs operate within the legal opening hours which they have planning permission for. If a bar wants to extend their opening hours they can apply to do so and their case will be considered by the council.”

They also maintained that they are supportive of Brick Lane, adding: “We launched the Taste Brick Lane campaign in March with celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott to promote the area as a premier tourist destination.”

However it is clear that they are concerned enough to change the way in which bars and clubs have been operating. They told ELL: “The council is working with local businesses on a national scheme known as Best Bar None, to maintain and raise management standards as well as improve the customer experience.

[This] requires businesses to provide proof of appropriate security, emergency procedures and risk assessments. This scheme recognises excellence in management, raises standards and ensures businesses provide a safe and responsible environment. Best Bar None builds positive relationships between the council, police and local businesses whilst tackling the harmful effects of anti-social behaviour.”

ELL also spoke to  John Biggs, the Labour member of the London Assembly for the area. He said: “The success of Brick Lane and Shoreditch as a night time entertainment centre is of course a good thing for London but it has thrown up a number of problems, particularly related to alcohol, drugs and anti-social behavior. Repeatedly it has been clear that there is a delicate balancing act between the prosperity, and pleasurable enjoyment that the area can offer – and the pressure this places on local communities.”

Out on the streets, people were sad to see the Vibe Bar close but all acknowledged that the area is changing very fast.

Devendra, a Brick Lane resident expressed his concern about the closure of the bar and the changes in demographic. He said: “I moved here with my wife in the early 2000s when Brick Lane was unknown, The Vibe Bar was the place to be back then. I don’t go anymore because of my kids but I’m very sad to see it go – a lot of bar’s are closing around here now. I think Brick Lane has its very own specific vibe which people like, I hope that doesn’t change.”

Stuart, an ex journalist working in the area said he felt nostalgic about seeing the bar go, adding: “I feel a bit sad really, this is where I came when I moved to London in the 90’s and there was nothing besides the Vibe Bar here. I remember the bar being completely empty. I’m sad to see it go but at the same time it makes sense due to the gentrification of the area. It’s slowly becoming the new Camden.

I hadn’t been for a while until a couple weeks ago I started working here and noticed Brick Lane has become a tourist destination.  I can see why you would try to change it to a safe place because of that, but at the same time I’m quite sad to see it go.”

Paris, a Brixton resident who frequents Brick Lane is worried that it will lose its identity. She said: “The culture, the people, the places – it has its own vibe that people like and come here to enjoy, if you change it to be just like every other part of London it will loose its identity. I live in Brixton which has a very similar vibe to here, it draws people here, it doesn’t keep them away.”

Elisabeth, a London Metropolitan Student has seen a change in the area in the last year: “I come here after classes with friends to hang out. Whilst I’ve been to the Vibe Bar its a bit old for my taste. I remember a year or so ago, there was only students and hipsters here, now all I see is tourists. I can’t believe how quickly the area is changing.”

Jay, a Hackney resident said: “I’ve heard there’s been issues with licenses, I didn’t know that this place would be closing down too. Brick Lane has its own vibe that people like.

If it’s not broken don’t fix it, it’s a shame to close down such a place. I’ve never been affected by any drunk people coming out from places in the area, its not about that, if you don’t look for trouble you’re not going find it.”

What do you think about the changing face of Brick Lane? Let us know in the comments below.

Leave a Reply