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Fuse nightclub allowed to reopen under strict conditions, with relocation likely

15:03 28/01/2023

After significant backlash from the closure of one of Brussels most iconic nightclubs, Fuse was allowed to reopen this weekend under certain conditions.

But those conditions, outlined by competent authority Brussels Environment, are so strict that the club’s management said their future is still uncertain.

The new conditions dictate that Fuse may only open two days a week, can host a maximum of 90 events per year, are only allowed to play music loudly on its ground floor and first floor (no noise is permitted on the second floor), and can only operate from 23.00 to 7.00 in the morning.

Fuse is also being asked to fix any issues with noise pollution within two years, or else move from the place where Belgium's longest-running techno club has stood for almost 30 years.

Fuse has already invested heavily in noise insulation over the years and Alya Dirix, a spokesperson for the Brussels Nightlife Council, said “additional works will probably cost millions of euros”.

Brussels Environment said it is hoping to strike the right balance between the economic and cultural significance of the popular nightclub and the wellbeing of local residents, saying: “The aim was not to close the establishment, but to reduce the noise level for local residents.”

The club said that the complaints about the noise have come from only one individual who moved to the neighbourhood recently. Other nearby residents say they have never had an issue and understood that buying a home next to a nightclub would come with occasional noise.

The council for nightlife in Brussels says new regulations are needed to protect clubs such as Fuse so that they cannot be shut down over complaints from people who deliberately move to the area already knowing there is a lively nightlife scene.

“This time it's Fuse, next time another club,” said Dirix. “We need a legal framework.”

Brussels mayor Philippe Close (PS) called for “a lasting solution” and said that "the legislation needs to be reviewed".

Brussels state secretary for heritage Pascal Smet ( - Vooruit) is likewise calling for new regulations.

Fuse’s management announced that they the club try to open under these strict new conditions, but that it would be difficult to operate profitably.

For one, only being allowed to open two days a week means they would not be able to take advantage of special holidays.

Having to close at 7.00 would also deter clubgoers, a significant amount of whom come from abroad.

“We're going to reopen, but the proposed standards are not easy. It's very strict,” artistic director Steven Van Belle told RTBF.

“We will try and then evaluate to see if it is tenable both economically and in terms of the experience for our customers.”

In the meantime, the neighbour concerned about the noise is also unhappy with the stricter conditions.

“My client is completely fed up with the noise and nuisance from Fuse,” the neighbour’s lawyer said. “I doubt he can live with the conditions now imposed.”

But other residents are quick to point out that, like them, the man chose to buy a home near a nightclub. Fuse has been operating in that same place for nearly three decades.

One person pleased with the outcome is Brussels minister for the environment, Alain Maron (Ecolo).

He expressed confidence that steps will be taken to find more structural solutions and announced that he will propose setting up a taskforce to support the relocation of the Fuse to elsewhere in Brussels within two years.

“I am pleased that the dialogue between all parties has allowed the party to resume. We will now work on more structural solutions,” he commented via a spokesperson.

That structural solution may be a relocation.

Brussels Environment said that Fuse will likely move within the next two years under these new conditions because the works needed to meet the stricter noise standards are impossible to do without endangering the stability of the building.

“Fuse considers the first decision of Brussels Environment as a total closure, but the aim was not to close the establishment but to reduce the noise levels suffered by the residents, hence these adaptations,” the authority said.

“This decision comes at a time when discussions have been under way since 2014 with Fuse [located in a residential area in the Marolles] following the regular exceeding of noise standards. However, the ordinance on amplified sound requires those in charge of establishments open to the public to take the necessary measures to ensure that noise linked to the operation does not disturb the peace and quiet or the health of local residents.”

Some residents have already expressed concerns about the club relocating or closing due to the depressing economic effect it would have on the neighbourhood, which they say is otherwise lacking in culture and nightlife.

As Belgium's longest-running nightclub of its type, Fuse was a destination for tourists in addition to locals, and many view it as a source of pride for the neighbourhood.

But closure seems imminent: Fuse will celebrate its 30th birthday in its current location, but that will be likely its last.

In the meantime, whether they can make the next two years operating under stricter standards profitable enough to afford the relocation – and what the neighbour intends to do via the court system – remains to be seen.

Another member of the nightlife federation said there is not even anywhere for Fuse to go.

“In reality, this decision is not a decision to open, but it marks the closure of the Fuse because the law forbids a commercial establishment to open in an industrial zone – so no one knows where else they could set up,” Lorenzo Serra told RTBF.

“We are not forcing an ordinary nightclub that does not respect anything to close down, but the temple of techno – a cultural institution that does programming and that makes us proud beyond our borders, a place that has a social and structuring role.

"It is the opera house of the 21st century that is being pushed to close against popular opinion: 70,000 people have signed a petition to save Fuse. This decision is tragic for Brussels.”

Written by Helen Lyons