Bisphopsgate Churchyard - London
I have a little laugh to myself; this is not the type of powder
that’s usually associated with nocturnal recreational activities.
Light feathery flakes of snowfall on the eerily quiet Bishopsgate
Churchyard and my majestic Victorian Bathhouse. Her ornate
stained glass onion dome roof and intricate swirling gingerbread
house brickwork glow like a beacon of light in the North Pole,
nestled in the stark, striking contrast between towering sleek
futuristic skyscrapers. The powdery snow gives the illusion of purity.
A Nordic Yuletide picture-perfect snow globe rather than a setting
for a debaucherous den of iniquity and scandalous all-night party.
Despite the unexpected snowfall (this is usually terrible for business)
we’ve sold out of New Year’s Eve tickets, plus the extra 20 per cent
we list on the top of our legal venue capacity to take into account
the no-shows and last-minute dropo uts. We were named the
‘hottest place in London to ring-in-the-New-Year’ according to Time
Out Magazine. Bad reviews plague nightclubs, but it’s the positive
ones that damaged us. Blowing open our secret world into the
mainstream media and sending our underground pleasure seekers
to the next unheard of playground. We were still as busy as last
years NYE party but with a very different type of customer now,
and more of the overflow has turned up than usual. It’s tight inside.
I can see on the clickers, we are over capacity by fifty-eight people,
not operationally dangerous but still illegal if I get caught in a spot
check. Which is why we run two sets of clickers, one to show the
police and local authorities, and one for us. Inside the atmosphere
is electric, a contagious thrill of anticipation to celebrate the New
Year, nobody seems worried that it’s a tight squeeze. Well, for the
20 minutes to countdown. The entry queue is still snaking
around the venue. Trickles of customers wobbly and sway from
pre-drinking try to score entry with a last-minute ticket on the door. I
send them to the pub next door for the countdown then add them to
the free entry guest list with a few drink tokens to come back later in
the night when the crowd thins out a little. I love that people come
and celebrate with us. It’s a weird feeling of awe, guests wanting to
spend their precious nights here, especially NYE. I don’t want them
to have a shit night waiting in the snow to get in. The fact they didn’t
arrange to buy tickets in advance, which is how most NYE parties
operate, can turn around negatively on us in an online review or
word of mouth, spiralling into “The place is shit. Their queue was
too long. Security were dicks and wouldn’t let us in.” I’d rather keep
customers happy. It’s better for business in the long run, and it’s
what gives us an unpretentious reputation. VIP guest list, excellent
hospitality, and a few drinks tickets go a long way in clubland.
Back inside, the glitter cannon and metallic gold balloon ceiling drop
are straining to explode over party revellers as the clock strikes
twelve. I look around the venue and pinch myself. This is actually
mine. It’s a good pinch, not a fuck, this is my problem pinch. It
switches often. The room shimmers and shines, opulent, magical,
and seeped in history. Low-hanging bronze chandeliers with flicker
candle light bulbs throw dancing shadows on the thick red velvet
draping. Disco balls’ project glittery mirrored dots over the pale
walls of handmade, fined-detailed macabre skeleton wallpaper,
Long white taper candles shoved into the spiky tops of pineapples
(I secretly think their life purpose is candle holding) The trend for
minimal warehouse nightclubs is booming, and this is the reason
why The Bathhouse is so intoxicating. It is the complete opposite,
sheer decadence without the pretension of a West End club. Nor
17 minutes to countdown. I slink and slide through the hot
clammy crowd, ducking and diving past people’s drinks and wild
dance moves to find the quickest route to check on the tills, reload
the change, make sure the bars are fully stocked. Glasses are
making their way back from the dishwasher ready to go another
round. This is one of those nights when we have a license to print
money. A delicate but well-oiled ecosystem of everyone doing their
jobs properly to keep the flow going, the booze selling, and cash
I poke my head back upstairs to check on security and take a G&T to
our guest list legend, Sissy. I notice that Antonio, our very beautiful,
Latin lover Brazilian restaurant manager is now fully relaxed after
his shift and by fully relaxed I mean spangled on MDMA and kissing
an equally pretty boy in front of the venue. They look like a glossy
magazine ad for Jean Paul Gaultier perfume. He stumbles a little. I
discreetly flag security to keep an eye out for him. Mac, our venue
manager, is also watching him, so I move on.
13 minutes to countdown. I make my way back down into the
beating heart of the club, our DJ. In the towering 12-foot-high and
8-foot wide golden birdcage DJ booth, a thing of pure beauty. It
rises up in the middle of the dance floor, towering over the sea of
heaving sweaty bodies with its twisted, decorative wrought irons
bars. A large-scale version of what you would see hanging in the
window of the ‘Cherry Tree Lane’ mansion where Mary Poppins
nannies. We triple-check the microphone for the countdown. The
Dj is mixing a Franki Valli - Beggin’ Remix into the epic acapella
Simian Mobile Disco - We Are Your Friends; everyone is going wild
- faces spin, laughing, dancing, flashing in front of me as I move
quickly through the dance floor. I head down the spiral stairs, each
step is ancient, crumbly cream marble and the walls are covered in
original ornate 18th-century tiles, handmade and slightly different
with inconsistencies and imperfections, making them perfect to me.
Muted reds and midnight blues in dreamy geometric patterns. They
are cool to touch as I run my fingers along the walls leading down
to my office. I’m surprised there isn’t a greasy trail of my fingerprints
up and down the tile work. It has become a superstitious habit
moving through the stairwells, always connected by my fingertips.
A moment from the madness. The office vibrates godlike Bowie’s
anthem - Let’s Dance. It’s hot and stuffy in the basement. No
windows or fresh air, CCTV monitors line the walls creating more
unbearable heat into the small room. I rack up a few lines of coke
from the large pile, quickly snort one, leave the rest, then head
upstairs to oversee the midnight madness.
9 minutes to countdown. Lively from my-pick-me-up, I quickly
head back to the door to sneak in a cigarette before the count
down. There’s an odd atmosphere between the guys on security. It
feels serious, and their tempers seem a little short tonight. But then
the cold really affects them, standing for eight hours in all sorts of
weather, often working a double shift. Most of the security team
have day jobs, and we tend to feel the burn of their double shift day.
Antonio is having an up-close, animated conversation with Mac,
the venue manager.
Mac is a little off today as well, frayed. I clocked he didn’t meet
my gaze earlier, quickly looking away. New Year’s Eves are weird.
People are weird. There’s heightened tension and expectation
with staff as well as customers. Like it’s a magical night meant to
change everything and determines the year ahead. For me, it’s just
another of the regular 365 days in clubland that roll around. NYE
lost its sparkle many years ago in Mexico for me.
7 minutes to countdown. Coat check calls out over the radio that
they need more raffle tickets. I nip in to sort it out, any excuse to
talk shit and stand in front of the heater a few minutes. Not the
warmest outfit for this Baltic weather, I’m wearing a skin-tighthigh-
waisted, knee-length leather pencil skirt. Tucked into it is a
ruffled black and gold sheer bullfighter kind of shirt-blouse-thing,
with a thick vintage Versace elastic waist belt with two large golden
leopards, with emerald jewel eyes, bowing down to each other.
Opaque black tights and lace-up pointy, shiny patent stiletto heels,
’50’s pin-tucked hair, soft curls, and iconic Mac Ruby Woo lips as
per usual. My phone is slipped in between my bra strap and boob,
and the five-channel radio with earpiece is clipped to my skirt. I
keep a white cropped vintage bolero rabbit fur and black leather
gloves with leather oversized bows where the wrist meets the hand
stashed by the front door to grab for when I head outside.
3 minutes to countdown. Looking out the frosty coat check
window to the security, a quick, jerky movement catches my
eye at the entrance. Something’s kicking off. I race outside. It’s
Antonio, Mac, and... three other guys I don’t know? … For fuck
sake, they’re customers! Mac throws a punch and floors one of
the guys. Antonio is scrapping on the ground with another, I run
over and pull Antonio off him before it gets worse. Mac’s dragging
him back into a headlock. Spinning around with a huge shock, a
dull shove to the middle of my back, knocking the wind out of me
…it’s a female customer. She’s screaming at Mac, trying to climb
over me to get him off her boyfriend. I hold her back, and she starts
walking backwards up the churchyard, screaming at Nathan the
head of security, “You fucking pussy cunt, you piece of shit cunt!”
It’s escalating quickly, his face goes from white to grey and his eyes
lock on her like a great white shark, fiery and beady, not blinking,
not looking away. He runs towards her...wait, what the fuck is he
doing!?! He throws his arm back, then smashes her with a closed
fist, not holding back as he punches her right in the middle of her
face. Everything is in slow motion. The impact makes her face
fly to the side. Blood sprays across the snow in the churchyard,
and she goes flying through the cold night air. I can’t believe this
is happening. My security team is turning on our customers. I
scramble, slipping on the ice to get over to her. Dragging her out
of his way, then crawling to the side of the scrum, I fumble down
my top, grab my phone and call the police. Now, this is the LAST
thing you ever want to do as a club owner. You try to keep the
police as far away as you possibly can. This is totally out of my
control. The police are stationed one block around the corner on
Liverpool Street. And there are roaming armed response unit as
well - we’re positioned within the City of London Square mile which
has its own independent police force. I make the call directly to
the Liverpool Street precinct for help. She’s bleeding everywhere
and still screaming at Nathan, spitting out blood and bits of broken
teeth. She gets back on her feet, wobbling. He’s squaring up to
her again. My body spiked with pure adrenalin, I wedge myself in
between both of them. He’s pulling at me to get me out-of-the-way.
I refuse to budge. He’ll have to start attacking me before he gets to
her. I scream an inch from his face… ‘BACK THE FUCK OFF!’…
He is raging, totally out of control.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 MIDNIGHT - HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! A dull rhythmic
thump in the distance. Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump. In
storm City of London police in full riot gear, masks, shields, and
submachine guns. Casual. They file methodically into the top of the
churchyard and march towards us in an impenetrable formation,
sirens whirring, red flashing lights staining the snow, like blood, and
the screeching of an ambulance to let us know it’s not far behind.
They plough through the snow and in a split second, grab everyone
in the immediate vicinity and pull this bullshit mess apart. This is my
mess, my security, my managers. Panic flashed through my mind,
FUCK. The police can’t go into the club. We’re in full flight of an
overcapacity party down there. Double FUCK. The office! What if
they want to review the CCTV of the fight right now? With a pile of
coke on the bench staring up at them?
Mac, Antonio, Nathan, and the three customers they were fighting
are arrested and taken to the police station. Our female customer
is taken to the hospital. The police leave as quickly as they arrived.
Small mercies, they left without entering the venue, but my shortlived
career is unarguably over. That was some seriously bad
management all round.
22 minutes past midnight. I walk back down into the club, shellshocked,
my heart still racing as I step over the gold foil confetti
debris from the exploded glitter cannon. Empty party popper
cases, customers dancing on tables, golden balloons bouncing
through the crowd, and bar staff working at a maniacal pace to
push out the post-midnight madness drink orders. It’s as though
the Armageddon-level shit storm above never happened; they
were protected in the bomb-proof party bunker, oblivious to the
pandemonium and anarchy outside…
25 minutes past midnight. I lock myself in the office to polish off
the two pre-racked up lines and put my head on the desk to rest.
What the fuck am I doing with my life? Break (down) over. Back
to running the club. I’m now short three staff members. Well, two
apparently on-duty capable’ members. I place calls to get Nathan’s
security position filled ASAP, make a mental note to go look for one
of my precious leopard emerald eyes that pinged out in the fight.
28 minutes past midnight. Back on the floor, tits ‘n teeth out, a fake
smile plastered on to deliver the ‘night of the year’ for our customers
and record-breaking bar takings for our accountant. First stop. The
bar, to get the staff a round of Jagerbombs. They deserve it.
So do I.
Just a regular hour at work. Well not, even an hour. 48 minutes. I
wonder what the next few hours are going to bring?...
NB: My staff were all charged with aggravated assault while the
three male customers charged with drunk and disorderly behaviour.
The female customer received 20 stitches, had a broken nose, and
needed reconstructive dental work, but didn’t press charges for
grievous bodily harm against Nathan. Which was really strange.
She stopped talking to the police after she sobered up the next
day. After reviewing the CCTV footage a few days later, the
police were satisfied with how I managed the situation, and they
decided to charge the staff as individuals rather than prosecute
the venue or take our license to a review hearing. We fired the
three staff members involved for gross misconduct. Turns out
married, heterosexual Mac had been secretly drinking on the
job that night, he was deeply and also secretly in love with our
Antonio. He snapped, couldn’t stand seeing Antonio kiss random
pretty boys while wasted on MDMA. So he lashed out at the pretty
stranger and his friends. Gross misconduct. Antonio jumping in,
escalating the fight. Gross misconduct. Nathan, our shark security,
was apparently sleep-deprived. His girlfriend had left him, and
he was hopped up on ‘legal’ performance-enhancing steroids in
preparation for an amateur MMA fight, making him lose his shit on
our lady customer. So, so much gross misconduct. It’s EastEnders
drama featuring The Bathhouse security and upper management.
Oh and I’d love to tell you that I learnt my lesson cutting it fine with
the police coming into the office with the coke left out, but I just
found a more discreet place to do it…