Tel Aviv plans a dance revolution

Tel Aviv plans a dance r

Following police closures of prominent Tel Aviv nightclubs on New Year's Eve, a group of clubbers plan to hold a dance/demonstration to protest what they say is the municipality's attempt to change the city's nature. On Friday afternoon, the clubbers will take their portable music players and headphones to dance away the evening in Gan Meir park, each silently dancing to the music he loves. "It's called mobile clubbing. It's not a new phenomenon, but this is the first time we're doing it as a statement," said May, one of the event's organizers. "This is something that arose from people in the clubbing community, who feel that the city and the law enforcement agencies are trying to delegitimize them. This is our way of protesting in a quiet and fun way, so that nobody can claim we are disrupting the peace. "For several years now the city has been corralling all the nightclubs into special enclosures - city zones that are dedicated to nightlife - and many people feel that it's ruining the character of the city that is well known for its open and festive atmosphere," said May. "We feel that what the police did last week was going too far. We understand the need for safety, but we feel that they are picking on the wrong people. Instead of going after places because they are overcrowded, the police should be going after the places where there are fights or where alcohol is being sold to minors." On New Year's Eve the police closed down 10 clubs, which they said were dangerously overcrowded. Shortly after midnight, the officers turned off the music, sent the partygoers away and issued 30-day closure orders to the clubs' owners. Nightclub owner Yaron Prax said it was a "death sentence" for his business. "I told the police that a 30-day closure would spell the end of my business. The response I got was, 'I don't think it is.' Can you believe it?" Prax, the owner of a nightclub called The Block, said that he's used to such responses from the police, who he claims are completely unreasonable in their demands from owners. "The legal requirement is that there be no more than one person for every square meter of space in a given location. A business cannot survive under those restrictions and I promise you that not a single club in the city does. Go to any club you want on a weekend and you'll see that density rates are much higher, they have to be to justify themselves economically," he said. Prax also said the police was unfair in handing out penalties. "They closed down my club and a few others for 30 days because of overcrowding, while other places that sold alcohol to minors or where fights broke out, were only closed for 15 days." "It's ridiculous," said Prax. "Last week the mayor [Ron Huldai] came to the club to mingle with the constituents on New Year's Eve. He and his entourage came to the club, talked and took pictures with the clubbers, admired the sound system and had a good time. No more than five minutes after they left, the police came to close the place down." Prax said he feels like the authorities are singling him out, because they want him to move to somewhere else and know he won't cause problems like some of the other club owners in the neighborhood. "I didn't want to be here in the first place. I knew the neighborhood was problematic because it was already saturated with nightclubs and the audience that I wanted to attract was different than the rest of the clubs. "The only reason I opened The Block here [on David Hachami Street] was because I was told by the municipality that here I could play music till late and wouldn't be bothering anybody," said Prax. "In the end I decided to establish my club here and invested millions in redesigning the place and installing one of the best sound systems in the world, because I thought I could be here for a long time. Unlike other nightclub owners I'm not here to make a quick buck. I planned to be here for the long haul. That's my business plan. Now it looks like my dream of providing an alternative to the vulgarity and aggressiveness of the other clubs will be dashed. "I understand and full support the need to reduce the violence in nightclubs, but in my case the police are barking up the wrong tree," said Prax. "In the two-and-a-half years I've been open, we have never had a fight. My customers simply want to dance and have fun. People who are looking to fight or cause trouble, don't come in here, The music we play doesn't attract them and besides, they have plenty of alternatives in the area." The Tel Aviv police spokeswoman denied that officers and inspectors were picking on specific clubs. The police reported that on New Year's Eve, officers inspected 148 nightclubs, of which 10 were closed down, some because of overcrowding, some because of fighting and some because they were selling alcohol to minors. "Nightclub inspections are part of our routine activities. Officers go around approximately once a month and carry out inspections," said the spokeswoman. "Prior to New Year's Eve, we notified the proprietors that we would be making inspections and warned them that we would be closely monitoring overcrowding." According to the police, some of the clubs were found to have more than two-and-a-half times the permitted amount of people. "We have no desire to ruin the city's night life, but those kinds of levels present a real danger. Never mind a bomb, in such close quarters even a fight or fireworks going off can lead to disaster," said the police spokeswoman. Earlier this week the nightclubs that were closed down appealed the decision in court. All the appeals were rejected.