Buenos Aires' nightclubs have been ordered by a judge to close down in response to the drug-related deaths of five people at a music festival in the city.

The Argentinian capital's iconic tango milongas and dance get-togethers held at cultural centres are exempt from the ruling by municipal judge Roberto Andrés Gallardo, which otherwise calls for an end to "all commercial activity involving dancing with live or recorded music.

"Little had been done to control the consumption of drugs in clubs," he said, citing "a landscape of impunity and lack of state control with respect to nocturnal activities".

It's like shutting the vegetable store because you found food poisoning at the butcher shop

Jorge Becco, Buenos Aires chamber of discotheque owners

Nightclub owners said they would not follow the ruling, pointing out that the deaths took place at an electronic music festival at an events complex, not a typical nightclub.

"How do you obey a totally unconstitutional order like this one?" Jorge Becco, head of the Buenos Aires chamber of discotheque owners, asked local television.

"It's like shutting the vegetable store because you found food poisoning at the butcher's shop."


The head of the Buenos Aires local government, Horacio Rodriguez Larretta, disagreed with the judge's decision and even called it "nonsense".

"There are thousands of people who enjoy themselves in a healthy way every night and we are going to defend them," he said. "We are asking the judiciary to revoke the ban so we can lift this suspension today.

"We are concerned with addiction, but this doesn't mean we literally have to close down the whole of the city's nightlife."

Judge Gallardo's ruling said the closure will last until the city government presents a plan for controlling illegal drug sales and irregularities at "electronic music parties".

The ruling is aimed at venues that play electronic music but said all clubs were being closed while authorities determine which ones feature that genre. The closure then will be enforced only on electronic music venues.

Five people died and five were hospitalised after taking illegal drugs on the first day of the Time Warp music festival on April 16.

Source: Agencies