Sign the petition, #SaveTheArches! - Our statement.
Sign the petition – #SaveTheArches. Our statement.

Our team collectively sign this petition and beg for Glasgow City Council’s Licensing Board to review this decision as an urgent matter of public safety. We respectfully fear the Licensing Board may not, in this instance, be meeting its key responsibility of promoting the 5 licensing objectives set out in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, in particular; in securing public safety and protecting and promoting public health. Our views come from direct experience in working on the front-line within licensed premises and the night-time economy. We have seen what goes on across the city, we’ve been at the centre of it, and we fear our board do not. We’ve treated it first hand, we’ve provided harm reduction, we’ve engaged with and built up a unique level of respect and trust with clubbers over the years, alongside specialist drugs agencies such as Crew. We have a unique insight to both sides of the debate.

Drugs are a serious part of society. Tobacco and alcohol amongst them being the biggest killers in the world, costing billions per year in our NHS alone across the UK. However, what Police Scotland have presented is a venue who surpass all requirements and recommendations in the safety of its patrons. A venue who have been the benchmark for customer care for many, many years. Who have created, implemented and led an effective harm reduction policy for years. Who have openly cooperated with Police Scotland in a transparent attempt to aid in Police Scotland’s unfortunate failed harm reduction motives. A venue who have had their cooperation – which has spearheaded the research of illicit substances in recent times – turned against them for drugs finds on the doors. This is effectively a Policing matter; where drugs cannot be controlled on our streets. However, they can be controlled on the doors of venues across Glasgow to the best of their legal abilities, and venues shouldn’t be persecuted for drugs making their way to their doors which are found, confiscated and reported – due to inadequate control on the streets.

We fear clubbers have now lost the safest and most regulated environment in Scotland to club in – and rest assured this will NOT stop people clubbing or stop substance misuse. We have potentially lost an environment where clubbers can be policed and cared for when necessary – pushing them to the streets, to house parties, to the underground scene, and to other venues (many of which don’t have these same rigorous standards and policies in place). We fear this will lead to arrest, and ultimately, fatalities. We also fear cooperation between Police Scotland and many other licensed premises will cease – out of fear cooperation will be twisted and lead to persecution, such as in this case. This is a terrifying situation for Glasgow’s licensed trade and clubbers to be in. The wider debate of drugs policy is understandably out with the control and governance of local Licensing Boards, however, their reasoning for closing Scotland’s safest clubbing venue due to concerns over public safety – have in turn, breached their own duties of securing public safety and protecting and promoting public health as part of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 – as it is factual that this decision will have a harmful impact on a part of our society.

As reported by The Arches Executive Director; in the period of review, 250,000 clubbers walked through the doors of The Arches. Just 0.14% of these were involved in reports of drug misuse incidents. 99.86% of The Arches footfall acted responsibly, and/or, where effectively ‘policed’ by the venue’s strict management and security policies and procedures. Without The Arches – 250,000 clubbers would have been in unregulated environments without this level of infrastructure. Without our team of dedicated medical and welfare staff on-site managing both a bedded First Aid & Welfare room, as well as a 2-bedded treatment/resus room. Police incidents, Ambulance calls and fatalities would undoubtedly be far, far greater and unmanageable.

Our best possible chance of the most effective harm reduction with our current legislation, following on from education, is to increase the safety and care to patrons in nightclubs. Allow them a safer alternative to clubbing in venues where policy leads that of any other Scottish nightclub venue. Don’t deny them of safety. Allow them the chance to party in the safest environment which can be effectively policed to the best of their abilities. Don’t push people to unregulated environments without the same levels of rigorous security policy and medical care. Without the uniquely passionate and caring team from all departments which make up The Arches. Don’t increase risk and harm for the sake of making a point; where drug related finds by excellent door staff and cooperation with Police are being used in a debate and case against ‘failed’ licensing objectives as part of legislation that governs the sale of alcohol. Allow them their Arches.

A personal statement from our Managing Director, Dean Zielinski, as quoted by The National and The Times:

My personal and professional views. As a specialist nightclub medical provider, my team and I have been at the forefront of Scotland’s binge drinking and party drug culture. We’ve seen it from a very unique perspective most others haven’t within the emergency services/licensing/healthcare. We’ve seen it become a new ‘norm’ within our society more than ever. We’ve seen the direct and indirect impacts on drug policy and harm reduction motives from the powers at be. Sometimes, we wish we didn’t. But we do. It’s a necessary resource and a job we are incredibly passionate about. It’s a simple and extremely controversial fact that seems to scare us all from speaking out and admitting the dark truth. Current drug policy is failing our society. It is. Lots will disagree as the alternatives seem crazy. But we’ve seen it, we’ve cleaned up the mess from it, and we’ve treated ill-health directly and indirectly caused by it. Week in, week out. These decisions and current approaches are increasing risk and harm – and ultimately increasing the likelihood of fatalities. Something needs to be done! It can’t be a coincidence that the former chairman of the Home Office Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs shared these views and warned us of these moments to come.

Why, a venue of such fine infrastructure with levels of care beyond imagination, is being targeted for a core issue that lies with both society, and our government’s inability to recognise and support this issue. It baffles me, and quite frankly, terrifies me. Our Emergency Services – who without a doubt deserve praise beyond recognition – cannot cope with our night-time economy which IS now a part of our culture more than ever, whether we like to admit it or not. It needs to meet the demands of our City – and passing on the blame due to failures in response times and drains in resource just won’t work. Closing very well controlled venues who contain so many people within the one environment is not the answer. It may look an easy target, although it’s a target based on complete ignorance and negligence. It should be a dream in the eyes of Police and licensing to contain so many within the one safe environment, where we can all control and police it, where people can party and express themselves in as safe an environment there is.

This will NOT stop Glasgow’s clubbers. This simply moves at peak times up to 5000 people per weekend to venues across our city, to ‘underground’ after-parties and house-parties; places that don’t have such a robust industrial infrastructure in place to police and care for clubbers in one of the safest clubbing environments in the industry. Places without full searches and genuinely caring stewarding / security staff. Without dedicated non-judgemental medical staff and welfare support. Where finds go unreported. It won’t stop people clubbing. It won’t reduce drug use by half a pill. It won’t reduce binge drinking. These club nights will still go on in other venues, some who may lack the same level of infrastructure – sending Police on a wild goose chase across the city. People will become critically ill in environments with NO infrastructure, or even within ‘underground’ venues who’d see their license as priority over a patron in need of care. Something which could even be prevented entirely in an environment such as The Arches, treated appropriately and immediately. Sending this many people to uncontrolled environments is nothing short of negligence in its truest form, and a complete u turn on our approach to harm reduction.

I’ve been privileged and honoured to have worked alongside the entire team at The Arches. It opened my eyes to the night-time economy, and it introduced me to a team who provide endless non-judgemental care beyond imagination – where patron’s needs are put before themselves and before the needs of the venue and license.
I hope these petitions make light to licensing – who quite rightly have a difficult job to do with what has been presented by Police Scotland. However, to criticize and penalise a venue for the number of Police calls caused by excellent door searches, where a lot of other clubs would flush these finds unreported – is a complete abomination. They should be praised for taking such an active role in Policing our streets by taking illegal substances off of the streets. Security are taking on a role of Police. This is a job well done – yet it has been twisted and used to power an attempt of closing a worldwide renowned venue of the finest arts, music, clubbing and cuisine. Instead – they are penalised, for playing by the books, at the request of Police. If this policy was to be 100% enforced for every licensed premises – our policing and justice system would crumble to the ground within a week. It doesn’t work.

I’ve worked at events which drain Ambulance and/or Police resources threefold within days, weeks or months, in comparison to a venue of higher footfall over a year. These are expected as per risk assessment, yet are granted and not penalised. What about the festivals who see these call-outs again threefold and beyond within just a weekend? Is it fair to attack one venue – the one that goes beyond requirements and recommendations, in providing a safe and secure environment to clubbers and visitors? It certainly is not. I wish luck to the other venues who go beyond their duty of care as well, who will more than likely be in the firing line for a job well done.

Sign the petition!

The Arches: setting the benchmark for customer care.
The Arches: a worldwide institution of art and culture.
The Arches: dedicated resuscitation and treatment room.
The Arches: a very large dedicated First Aid & Welfare room.