Pic: Asia Sentinel.

City says it’s finally had enough of massively popular drug den, reports Asia Sentinel

Shocked by the drug overdose death of a 22-year-old policeman, authorities Tuesday swooped down and closed a huge nightclub complex in the heart of Jakarta that had operated for 16 years with impunity despite its location not far from the Presidential Palace.

“The permit has been revoked permanently so they cannot operate, forever,” Jakarta tourism office head Arie Budhiman told the media after the closure of Stadium, as the complex was called. “After the police caught the club red-handed, it was proven that narcotics were trafficked there.”

Acting Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama on Tuesday called the club “outrageous” in the wake of the death of North Sulawesi police officer Jicky Vay Gumerung, 22, after he allegedly took ecstasy and methamphetamine there on Friday. The decision to close the club apparently was taken by Basuki, the Jakarta deputy governor, who along with his boss, governor and presidential candidate Joko Widodo, is winning his spurs as a reformer.

Regular customers say drug use was wide open at the popular club, which accommodated as many as 2000 people at any given time, despite Indonesia’s stiff drug laws, which range up to death for the production, transit, import and possession of psychotropic drugs and narcotics.

(MORE: Jakarta vice governor Ahok launches futile drug crackdown)

There have been numerous late-night raids at the building although they usually amounted to few arrests and appeared to be more shakedowns than real crackdowns. Indeed, many were laying bets whether Stadium would actually remain closed, or would reopen when the heat dies down. It is said to be owned by mogul Rudi Rajamas, who is said to own other nightclubs throughout Jakarta including a nearby spa complex. Police didn’t tell the media whether the people who ran Stadium would be implicated.

“It was like a parallel universe,” said one occasional customer. “You enter a place filled with heaving bodies and emerge sometimes days later wondering what you have been up to.”

At odds with Indonesia’s reputation as a Muslim-majority country, Stadium was as wide-open a place in terms of drugs and sex as anything Bangkok or Manila have to offer. Even during the Holy Month of Ramadan, Stadium kept rocking with the apparent protection from the police. The odd drug raid was always felt to be cosmetic.

Prostitutes were on offer throughout the place and each floor had its own short-time hotel. The dark corners of the cavernous upstairs dance floor were rife with pimps, hustlers, drug dealers and pickpockets. The clientele ranged from socialites and slumming millionaires to college kids and tourists aware of Stadium’s reputation as an anything goes venue.

The most popular beverage was bottled water because ecstasy is said to produce a powerful thirst for those dancing the night away to the latest techno and house music.

“I used to warn my young expat employees not to go there,” said one executive. “I was afraid they might get set up in a crooked police bust just because they are young and vulnerable. That kind of thing happens at Stadium.”

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