TagEuropean Leisure

What a gorgeous dancer – but much safer at Digbys!

Some years ago I was asked to visit The Warehouse in Leeds.

On the way I called into Digbys, and was captivated by the warmth of welcome, friendly atmosphere and club-like intimacy of the place.

It was a club I could understand, enjoy, and be comfortable in.

I stayed a while, then thanked the manager and left.

But the Warehouse was something else!

As I approached a spectacular character in a pink and purple dress  unfurled out of a huge white limo. The dress was so long that it required three attendants in similar but smaller dresses to look after the train. Each had a large headdress and the whole ensemble was applauded by onlookers as the procession moved along the red carpet to the entrance to the club.

It was Speed Queen Night.

Just inside the entrance was an open bedroom area with double beds, bedside tables with lamps, and various flowing drapes – plus an array of characters who appeared to be completely at home there

This was all new to me, but as I moved along into the main room I felt a lot more comfortable.

Dancing alone in the centre of the dance floor was the most beautiful girl; wearing only a tailed coat, tights and high heeled shoes.

As she danced her coat front twisted and teased in a provocative and captivating way.

I stood in amazement.

Then I felt a hand on my arm.

“I wouldn`t go there mate if I were you,” warned a young man. “You could get the shock of your life.”

I thanked him; attempted to look cool, and wandered straight back to Digbys.

It was more of a club I could understand, enjoy, and be comfortable in.



image from BBC.co.uk

Working on board the Tuxedo Royale, I was responsible for the Sunset Bar

Working on board the Tuxedo Royale, I was responsible for the Sunset Bar, that specialised in cocktails, wine & Champagnes. At the time the flair style of service was pretty rare but a few of us in the team had taught ourselves a few tricks.

One Saturday night during an early session, I’m training a new team member and basically showing off. Armed with a bottle a Grenadine I’m casually talking to the new team member and spinning a bottle.

Imagine my embarrassment when I spotted a trail of red syrupy grenadine on the floor, up the bar, trailing on the bar top, and then up a customers back of a lovely cream suit!

Time for a break! Took the new member of staff off to so some paperwork – and made myself scarce! The customer was totally oblivious to the red stripe up his back!

Flair!!!  Although I wasn’t as nearly good as the guys nowadays, in the early 90’s I still felt quite impressive. Many of the customers had never witnessed it before and coupled with a good cocktail it was a great favourite with the girls, often I would get ‘extra’ attention from groups of girls and they would buy more cocktails on this basis.

One particular night I am on fire, serving really fast, spinning and throwing with no mistakes, and after one routine a load of girls where cheering, all 25+ and older, and there was defiantly something with one of them…..

A guy came up after the routine –  all excited, full of smiles and filled with enthusiasm.

“Hey were you in that film?” he asked.

Proudly & smugly I answered infront of the girls –

“What?, Cocktail?”

“No”, he replied, “Elephant Man!”

Great put down!

Never stopped me, and a great opportunity as I milked pity from the girls.

Not a problem – had the builder not left a spanner in the works!

Zuu in Aberdeen on the Windmill Brae was part of a 5 story complex with most of the complex left to rot with Gyms, Sauna’s Snooker & Pool rooms closed and left. The two used floors were the basement; which house the party bar “Berlin’s”, and on the next level was “Zuu”. We also use the top floor as “Labatt’s Land” but that’s another story.

European Leisure at the time were have some great success with the “Riley’s American Pool Hall” brand and during 97 they decided to develop a floor of this building to a ‘Rileys’, the work commenced and there was very little disruption to the rest of the trading units. Now you need to understand that ‘Zuu’ had a very industrial image, with air con ducts and pipes exposed in the ceiling and painted. This and saved a bundle on concealing them. There were so many tubes and pipes that we didn’t know what was used and what was a facade.

All of a sudden, after years of trading the ladies toilets began to block up – night after night. This was a mystery and we kept mopping – kept unblocking and eventually called out a drain company to investigate. T the toilets were near the office suite and was above the main club. No one was any wiser the experts could not put there finger on it.

As it happened, during the Riley`s Snooker Club project, the builder had joined the main waste pipe from the Ladies to Riley’s waste, not a problem, -had the builder not left a spanner in the works!

We didn’t find this out until one busy Saturday night a pipe right above the dance floor started leaking.This had never had this before in this venue, but just before we could cordon it off, the pipe opened up and the contents fell on the unsuspecting crowd!

Horrified we quickly moved to clear that area and look after the customers.

But none of the customers were bothered!!!

Previous weeks, we had a series of foam parties and they they assumed it was some kind of new dance event and they loved it! They would just not move!

The DJ had to drop the music and make announcements for their own safety.

It was a very bizarre situation.

First Leisure’s Amadeus was due to open in a few weeks after, so we made light of it and donned all the staff and customers in transparent poncho’s – which became a became a a promotional tool to help combat their opening.

Incidentally the first trading Saturday Amadeus had, we had the venue’s busiest session ever!



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That Famous Boat on the Tyne – Gone??? – But Never Forgotten

Those of us who worked on the Tuxedo Royale will never forget the vibrant atmosphere she created, and the absolute pride we all felt  as part of the “crew” of this unique venue.

I first started my Career with European Leisure PLC back 1989 as a glass collector. The venue I worked at was the TUXEDO ROYALE a fantastic roll on – roll off ferry converted into a nightclub. It was owned by European Leisure until 1992, but after many legal wrangling was sold back to the former owners. During the two and a bit years – what a great family atmosphere this unique venue had. The vessel had 7 rooms that catered for the then Newcastle’s & The North East’s more higher end crowd.

My very first task on my starting night was to provide all the chauffeur drivers in the car park with coffee & tea.

The rooms consisted of the main room, ‘Club Europa’ – a mainstream chart room with that incredible and infamous revolving dance floor, the cause of much amusement watching the unsuspecting guests losing their bearings. On this level there were two function rooms; the Admiral & Commodore Suites, which were used most weekends. These rooms were very versatile and used for everything from weddings to fashion shows to corporate meeting & showcases.

The next level up hosted three more rooms. ‘Stowaways’ – a soul and disco room, and ‘Trader Jacks’ the party room, that sold ‘Hot Roast Beef’sandwiches at midnight.

On the other side of the reception area on this level was the Italian/Al a carte, which attracted many celebs in its time; Kevin Costner, Brian Adams, Take That, a range of Soap Celebs (not paid PA’s) and Sportsmen & women. And of course Gazza!

The next level housed the Sunset Bar. A nice chilled and professional cocktail bar, with no pints allowed! This room was led by the 2 musicians ‘2 in a Bag’, who played live jazz and easy listening music. This room was also access the deck that went around the whole ship, the ‘sights’ of Tyneside could be seen at any time. (Sights – mainly frolicking in all the nooks and crannies). Later we developed the next level into a BBQ and open air bar for summer and was opened by Viv Richards.

For such a big venue the team of 45+ were a close team and fond memories. We had parties and “get togethers” most weekends and the staff nights every Sunday in the likes of Central Park, part of the old Studio & Ritzy or even the Oxford Ballroom building, TUX 2 and the then then vibrant Bigg Market. Many stories will be in all the teams heads as most  look back with fondness at this amazing place to work.

Deliveries dictated by the tide. Alan painting the boat from Bow to stern & back again. Stock & Kegs falling into the Tyne, Risqué goings on in the Bridge & old cabins and depths of the boat, the odd suicide into the car park, The constant 5 degree list, the 18 fire engines that had to come to the venue each time the alarm went off – all just a few great memories of the venue.

The Boat, had a poor end, becoming an eyesore and ‘rustbucket’ on the Tyne. It moved to Middlesborugh, traded for a bit and then ,well – just left for thieves  to steal whatever is sale-able, consequently the boat is now a mess. Luckily there is one chap prepared to take the vessel and repair it and even make it seaworthy again. Good Luck with that.

Now there were two boats on the Tyne in the later 90’s The Princess took the spot the Royale throughout the earlier years – and then the Princess again.

Many debates about which was best, I only know my great time I had from 89 to 92 on that famous boat on the Tyne –

Gone??? –  But Never Forgotten

Watch out for some stories coming soon.



Image of Tuxedo Royale from gazettelive.co.uk – where there are lots more “Tuxedo” images.

Wandering around the Doncaster nightclubs and bars

During the summer of 2000 we decided to spend a night wandering around the Doncaster nightclubs and bars.

We started at Berlins, which was busy, with an audience of mixed age groups enjoying a music policy ranging from dance music to The Beatles. It opened 7 nights per week, had two bars and 14 bar staff on the night of our visit, and had an unused till point half way down the stairs – from which an entry charge could have been made. But as it was – entry was free, which looked to be well compensated by the very busy bars. Sound and lighting were OK, and good use was made of the video screens.

Of course no visit to Doncaster was complete in those days without a trip to Bacchus. The club was legendary, and most definitely the place to be seen. Dress codes were strictly adhered to, but the three door staff in the tiny reception area could be a bit nervy, all of which contrasted with the poor box office cashier working from what looked .like a converted broom cupboard.

The club filled up quickly (at £4 per person), with a very smart, mature clientele, and had a quirky but interesting feel. One feature was a Victorian farmhouse kitchen range; nooks and crannies, some with ornate mirors, fitted in well with the modern bars and the rich red and greens of the dance floor area. This was a destination venue and we did not want to leave.

We understand that this venue ended its days as a gentlemen`s club. If so –           Shame!

Then we went to The Boardwalk to meet former Mecca manager Phil Houston, who was working the box office till. We had been in this club many times before, and always got the feeling that the clientele could fall onto either side of the law. In short – they made us feel a little uncomfortable. However business seemed OK, and everyone was happy there – so off we went to Visage.

Visage, of course, is the former Rank venue in Silver Street, next door to Berlins, and we found the club pretty much unchanged since the Rank days. There was around 500 customers in the room, dancing to modern and commercial dance music – which created a good scene. Management were attentive, and further 400ish customers arrived before we left – they were slightly older, and the DJ adjusted his music to suit.

We think we have visited this building in the past – was it called Rotters? And we found £15 on the floor that night!

At 12.45am we went to the former Seventh Heaven and Romeos and Juliet`s club – now trading as Karisma. Still four floors up, in what used to be the old Coop restaurant. Andy Clarkson was the manager. He had need moved up to Doncaster whilst his club – Volts at Kingston – was being refurbished. Andy was critical  of the clientele at Visage, and to be truthful, he did have a slightly more discerning crowd, but there was nothing wrong with the Visage customers – who had turned out in much greater numbers than the Karisma people on New Year`s Eve. But Andy didn`t want to talk about that!

On the night of our visit he had over 1000 well dressed customers in his club. The atmosphere and housekeeping were exceptional, and a credit to the industry.

Doncaster was special, and only so because a lot of people had worked very hard to make that way.

Congratulations to everyone concerned.


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