Further fears over Fez Club future

Jenni Reid, Deputy News Editor 1 September 2012

The future of Fez nightclub has been left uncertain following a renewed application to turn the Moroccan-themed venue into twelve flats.

Fez’s closure would take the number of Cambridge clubs down to four, leaving Lola Lo, Cindies (Ballare), Vodka Revs and Life (The Place).

Last October, similar proposals were made to turn the four-storey building into twelve apartments, but planning permission was rejected. Earlier this year, however, the developers stated their intentions of reapplying following “a slight amendment to the proposal”.

This comes amid news of the opening of a new large-scale nightclub, The Jam House, which will occupy the former Gala Bingo Hall on Hobson Street.

Fez was once a nationwide brand, but now remains only in Cambridge. The building, which was once a Joshua Taylor department store, is owned by the pension fund Friends Life. It cites the reason for the proposed change as the current “generous provision” already offered by other Cambridge clubs, in addition to health and safety concerns.

Friends Life recently discovered that Fez’s 361 person capacity is based on the use of a fire escape which is not included in the club’s lease. Without it, the capacity will drop to 220. A hazard is also posed by the vacant floors above Fez which do not have fire alarms, meaning that if a fire were to start above the club customers and staff would be put at risk.

The news is likely to upset many Cambridge students who feel that the city’s nightlife is already in decline. Earlier this year, the popular student venue Kambar in Wheeler Street was closed, with plans announced for a champagne bar and dinner dance club in its place. Kambar had previously been popular among those seeking an alternative to Cambridge’s more mainstream clubs.

George Johnson, Ents Rep for Peterhouse JCR, said, “Four is not a ‘generous provision’ for a city with well over 10,000 students. With Life and Cindies being essentially identical as it is, to shut down Fez would be to severely stunt Cambridge’s night-life variety. Not to mention that Fez is reasonably priced compared to most other clubs in Cambridge.”

In late 2011 it seemed Cindies and Life might also be set to close, when their owner Luminar went into administration with debts of £140m. The company was subsequently bought by three leisure industry specialists in a £45m deal, and the clubs were kept open. However, after an extensive fight for planning permission by its owners, it seems unlikely that Fez will also be spared.

Jenni Reid, Deputy News Editor