The mayor has cited "repeated illegal drug-related activity" for the order, which the Belgian club has called "completely out of proportion."
Mayor Mathias De Clercq released a statement on Wednesday citing "repeated illegal drug-related activity" inside the venue, located on Ottergemsesteenweg Zuid. "This temporary closure should allow Kompass Klub to strengthen and professionalize its organization," read the statement. The closure order could be lifted after two months, subject to Kompass Klub proposing initiatives addressing the mayor's concerns.
Kompass Klub has called the decision "completely out of proportion." "We extremely regret the decision of the mayor, because we've always had a very good relationship with both the police and the city of Ghent," they said in a Facebook post. "We received a positive evaluation from both the city and police in December," before pointing to a screenshot of an email they'd received from authorities.
But according to Jens Grieten, who runs Kompass Klub, the club may struggle to do more. He told Resident Advisor that he had suggested allowing security staff to search clubbers for drugs at the door until it was pointed out that this was illegal in Belgium. (Only police are permitted to carry out drug searches.) "How can we check for drugs if we're not allowed to check for drugs?" he said. He added that by dealing more transparently with the authorities—by, for example, informing them of drug dealers in the venue—Kompass Klub has made itself more vulnerable.
Three weeks ago, a pre-emptive campaign to save the club from closure began circulating online. The petition, which has attracted more than 11,000 signatures, mentions a man who died in the club in January after taking MDMA at Kompass Klub, which is reported to have triggered the investigation into the club. (RA has contacted De Clercq's office for comment.) DJs such as Chris Liebing, Bicep and Amelie Lens, the latter of whom was due to DJ at Kompass Klub tonight, have already voiced their support for the venue.
De Clercq's decision was made possible by a change in legislation in Ghent that took effect in 2017. As Nieuwsblad reported, the mayor's predecessor, Daniël Termont, established a mechanism to circumvent potentially lengthy court proceedings when dealing with licensed premises under investigation. Effectively, this meant the mayor could make an executive decision to close a venue based on advice from the police and public prosecutor.
Termont used this device in 2017 to order the closure of another Ghent club, Decadance, for ten weeks, but it was annulled on appeal. The basis of the ruling by the Council Of State, a Belgian legal entity that oversees decisions by public officials, was a lack of dialogue between Termont and Decadance prior to the closure order and the risk of bankruptcy that the closure would bring to the club. Decadance, a popular clubbing destination that opened in 1997, eventually closed late last year.
Read RA's extended feature on electronic music and drug policy, and listen to a recent episode of RA Exchange's The Hour on harm reduction in clubs.