TagNorthern Leisure

Gas Cheltenham – “You will find quite a difference. We have trashed the place!”.

The overall feel of Cheltenham was of standards, quality and  safety.

Pedestrians appeared to be well dressed and responsible. Restaurants and bars were very quiet. The police patrolled regularly, while the street cameras suggested that big brother was always there if needed.

It was approximately 8.30 pm, and we were on a Wednesday visit to the Cheltenham nightclubs during November 1997.

Ticket distributors we positioned throughout the town hoping to drive business to Club Mondo, where they planned a dance night with £1.00 drinks prices. Also for Time – where a 70s and 80s night offered 50p drinks before 11pm.

We walked along the side of Marks and Spencer`s, down a narrow alley way, and into a courtyard with picnic tables and a raised seating area towards Time.

A hot dog vendor in chefs` whites was setting up by his van, amid the empty beer bottles strewn over walkway

The foyer at Time, despite being open later that evening, had the look of a dereliction. The floor was covered with litter and a broken till,  and empty beer and Coke bottles.

Next to, and we thought partially underneath Time, was Buskers. A sparsely decorated student bar with 70% occupancy and a huge, but unused, pizza oven. A Speed Garage night was advertised for Wednesdays, using the imagery from the Sandra Bullock – Keanu Reeves “Speed” film.

Our next call was to the spectacular Grade 11 listed building – the home of the Gas nightclub in St James`s Square.

Unfortunately litter bins had been left facing the picturesque square, and litter and beer bottles had not been cleared from alcoves around the club for some time. Advertising was for the Thursday 70s nights, with drinks at 50p before 11pm, and free drinks for the first 100 customers on Fridays. Four door staff stood at the entrance to the premises, one of which went over to a small white van with the words “FLAT OUT” printed on the side.

Maybe he also offered an ironing service!

Opposite Marks and Spencer`s was The Attic nightclub, but the four untidy and intimidating door staff frightened us off.

At 11.10pm we joined a small queue waiting to go into Time. The foyer had not been cleaned since our earlier visit. One member of door staff stood outside drinking beer, but the two in reception were professional and polite, and wore their local authority door registration cards on their belts.

The scruffy little man in the box office was taking the admission monies, and stringing the tickets he had already sold – which gave him ample opportunity to steal!

Most of the customers were students, so received a discount on the £3.00 admission charge.

The club was situated at first floor level, and was decorated on a Baronial/Legend theme. Staff did not have a uniform, bars were tops were soaking wet, and no one seemed to be collecting glasses. However the customers seemed to be enjoying themselves, with many picking up bottles and glasses from the floor and placing them on the limited shelf space available.

The sound system was awful, and produced a constant hiss that made conversation difficult. The DJ worked from a “pulpit” surrounded by mock medieval shields. Lighting was adequate, and customers took it in turn to use the two dance podiums.

The DJ resembled a small stocky Billy Idol, and was excellent.

His almost capacity audience smiled and danced and sang throughout the night, and was an absolute treat to watch and listen to.

First class!

At 12.15am we moved over to Gas. On the way we saw that Buskers was very quiet. They were playing dance music, but only to a few students.

And the once spotless streets were littered with tickets for both Time – and Club Mondo.

We arrived at Gas at 12.25am.

On the way we talked about the quality of both the design of the club, and its operational standards – all under the stewardship of nightclub designer and architect – Mike Gibson – who had since sold the business to one of the profit chasing PLCs

Our entry was blocked by two door staff who explained that it was “students only”. However, after we explained we were friends of Mike Gibson the manager allowed us to go in – with the warning –

“You will find quite a difference. We have trashed the place!”.

Once inside it was obvious –

The building had been trashed – but it was packed to the rafters!

Carpets smelled of sickly stale beer and were covered in broken glass, bottles, litter and cigarette ends. Bars were filthy, stacked with crates, swimming in liquid, and chaotically managed. The once magnificent window and alcove features were covered in dirt and gloom. Drinks were spilt by the customers on the higher levels onto those below, and the toilets –

Oh dear – where to start?

They were an absolute disgrace – and the worst we have ever seen. There was vomit everywhere, urinals were blocked and overflowing. Floors were covered in bottles, glasses and broken glass, toilet doors were broken, and customers tried to rinse out glasses to take out pints of water.

But once again – the music policy was brilliant – as was the clarity of the sound system.

We only really looked at the two businesses –

And each had been saved by the DJ







“Club of the year 1999” – Ikon and Diva York revisited

We visited Ikon and Diva York on a warm sunny evening during July 1999. It was a Saturday, and large queues of people waited for entry to the clubs, which were located quite a way out of York on the Clifton Business Park.

There was transport to the site on free buses, but no transport back into the city centre other than by taxi, a lift or by walking. However this had not deterred the smart and well  dressed clientele from queuing  for entry.

The clubs traded on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

As we approached the building Ikon was to the right, and Diva to the left. They had a joint capacity in the region of 1600 people, and were both successful, and professionally managed.

Ikon was the larger of the two clubs, with a capacity of 1000, and a balcony that gave a resemblance of The Black Orchid Nottingham. Commercial dance music was played, whilst Diva catering for the over 25s.

Both clubs traded without serious opposition, which kept the dust off the “House Full” sign.

We spoke with Paul Woodcock the retail manager, who told us that the General Manager was on holiday, and that he was waiting to move to the Majestyk Leeds. We were also able to spend time with Arthur, the head doorman, who was friendly,  professional, and knew many of the customers by name.

In fact the whole door team seemed to be very good.

Of course Ikon and Diva had opposition, but only from the few clubs allowed to trade in the city centre, as the result of a strict licensing policy to restrict the number of licenses issued.

So there were only three clubs in addition to Ikon and Diva.

Northern Leisure had a 700 capacity club by the city walls called Tofts. A private operator was running the down-market Gallery club, which offered free admission and five free drinks on the night of our visit. And finally there was Ziggys – a club that had traded since the 1960s, and opened by Don Macallion – the former manager of Tiffany`s in Fishergate.

Ikon and Diva was chosen by the industry gurus as “Club of the Year 1999”. It was said to have cost 3 million pounds to build, yet had managed to under-estimated the demand on the opening night – when many guests, including VIPs could not gain entry into the club.

Five or so years of successful traded followed, then the club invited its customers to the parent companies new venue – The Gallery.

And Ikon and Diva closed.

We enjoyed the club, but have a lasting memory of hundreds of people standing around, or sitting on the kerb side, way after closure, while they waited for transport home.

Somehow it just didn`t seem right.


It was November 1997 and we were visiting Blackburn`s Millennium and Utopia.

It was November 1997 and we were visiting Blackburn`s Millennium and Utopia.

Police vehicles cruised the streets. A riot van was parked opposite St George`s Hall.

People of all age groups moved from pub to pub – some of which had cloth capped old men sitting in a discotheque environment surrounded by young revellers.

Groups of people shouted and sang as they moved from bar to bar, most of whom were dressed for a summer`s evening.

The streets were littered with tickets, as result of “promotion teams” standing at the entrance to Lord`s Square and passing handfuls to everyone passing by. Nearly all of these were immediately dropped, with the star of the show being a rotund man who stood unmoved in the middle of the pavement, with his feet completely covered in tickets by 9pm.

We assumed that he would be completely covered by midnight, and would be issuing his wares as though from the top of a promotional volcano.

Most of the tickets were for Northern Leisure`s Millennium, and offered “Money for Nothing”, which was stretching the truth somewhat, because all the deal entailed was a drinks voucer in exchange for a £2.00 admission fee, then cheap drinks for the over 25s.

Without doubt Blackburn was vibrant.

The atmosphere was infectious and ageless. So when a drunken old man fell over, and then decided to “sing for his supper” – with his cloth cap held out for donations – good natured passers-by threw him money.

Our visit began at 9pm, where the Blob Shop was extremely busy. Stacks of bottles and glasses filled the tables, and the door staff warned us against visiting Millennium. “Utopia is the only place to go,” they warned. “Millennium don`t know what they are doing, and someone will get seriously hurt there one day.”

After this we briefly went into Toffs, which was situated almost directly underneath the entrance to Utopia. The room was absolutely packed with very young and unfriendly people, which mirrored the three very unfriendly door staff, all seemingly oblivious to the ear splitting volume of the dance music blasting out.

Sam`s Bar (with the added attraction of the singing drunk outside) was busy with a pleasant atmosphere and an age group of 21 to 30 year olds.

Our next call was to Blakey`s Café Bar, which seemed to be part of the St. Georg`s Hall complex. Smart polite door staff and a diverse age group created a warm and pleasant atmosphere, which was reflected in the high attendance. Without doubt this was the best bar visited, with a mixed age group, friendly staff and comfortable environment.

The White Bull compared to Blakey`s in popularity, but here the comparison ended. Unbearably loud rave music blasted out, which had attracted a 16 to 20 year old age group. Door staff were unfriendly, floors were littered with glasses, bottles and rubbish. We left much faster than we entered.

Once outside we inspected the foundations for Vesuvius, as a constant shower of tickets fell to earth.

At 9.45pm we made the short journey to the Millennium night club.

Once inside we joined the 10 or so other customers. We had survived the glares of the two menacing looking door staff, and now had opportunity to explore the building.

The toilets were filthy, the music boring, and most of the customers seemed to be edgy, and with attitude.

All with the mock highlight of early evening being the production of three small silver bowls of peanuts on the upstairs bar. As soon as they were gone the bowls were taken away. With apologies from the staff, who explained that they were only allowed to use a small bag, and only on a Saturday night.

Well – at least we had sight them!

A few more customers arrived – including four Asian males, followed by  five very rough looking men who bought pints, then stood about six feet away from us.

One of them spotted the Asians and shouted – “Fuckin` p…….. We`re gona `ave some fuckin` fun tonight”.

They wrestled amongst themselves for a while, then three of them walked away. The remaining two were tall and of powerful athletic build. One sat on a stool, while the other cuddled him, and tried to kiss him on the face, then full on the lips.

“Fuck off,” shouted the one on the stool. “You`ve been banged up for too long.”

The attendance had built up to around 270 people by midnight. One of which was a slim lady in a short black dress and very high healed boots. As she was walking past three door staff (all wearing Pubwatch approved badges), she slipped and turned her ankle as she fell to the floor – where she writhed in agony. All of which was to the delight of the door staff, who laughed and reveled at her plight – all with their added pleasure at the sight of her knickers.

Oh dear!

We had witnessed enough, so left around 12.30am.

Twenty minutes later we had walked past the man giving out his unwanted tickets for Millennium – who now looked to be standing in the centre of huge doughnut of litter – and to the sanctuary of Utopia.

Here we met friendly reception staff – found clean toilets – smiling customers – two rooms of great music – and a “high street” fast food area that was busy and well managed.

A scuffle broke out in the foyer entrance way to the “Paradise” room, which was quickly dealt with – and with the added professionalism of security staff returning to the scene to apologise to the customers for the incident.

We left at 2.00am – as we approached the exit security staff asked us if we had enjoyed ourselves – then said “goodnight”.

We left smiling!


Image from urbexforums.co.uk – also note – there are many other images of  Millennium at this site

A night out at Buzz Wakefield October 1997

Note – the current operators of Buzz Wakefield were in no way involved with this venue on the night of our visit.

A night out at Buzz Wakefield October 1997

We visited on a very cold Wednesday night. The streets were quiet, but those who were out were smartly dressed. As thought anticipating an over 25s night that had failed to materialise. Many went  up to the illuminated frontage of Jumpin Jaks, but the building as closed, as was Club Ikon.

There was very little traffic in the Westgate area, although police vehicles maintained a constant presence. Most licensed premises were also quiet, with any customers rushing in to avoid the intense cold.

Yates`s had notice of an application for an Entertainments Licence to allow them to use a J to allow music for dancing – something from history in licensing terms

The busiest pub in the area was the Foreshaw and Firkin. Customers were casually dressed, but the atmosphere was excellent.

The Exclusive Exchange Bar certainly lived up to its name. They had only had two customers up to 10pm. The barman told us that Buzz was the best place to go afterwards, although it was reputed to be very overcrowded on weekend nights. He had been going there for two and a half years, but he was bored with it, and now favoured Jumpin Jaks; especially the Sunday Comedy Nights.

We also visited A Taste of The Alternative, a very busy student bar; also Rumours, a feeder bar for the LA nightclub underneath, which was open until 1am. We then moved to Barristers, a Wetherspoon`s look-alike bar, which was also quiet. The staff told us that Buzz was becoming very rough and ready, but that Jumpin Jaks was “brilliant”.

A lone door supervisor stood at the entrance to Buzz. He had an unfriendly style, and ignored us as we entered. We paid our £1 admission fee, while some others signed the guest book and were admitted free.

It was a 70s night, with all the bar staff dressed in the sort of accentuated costumes that give the decade a false image. The DJ called himself Johnny Diamond, but there was little sparkle to his performance. He played a selection of the most boring and overplayed music of the era – which reinforced the negative comments we had experienced in the earlier bars.

Gradually the building began to fill with mature and well-dressed customers. Bar service was good, and all drinks were 50p before 11pm, which caused some people to hoard, but as most people did not arrive until 11.30 and later, the discount had little impact on the vast majority of those attending.

The toilets were dreadful, and with the complete absence of a cleaner. Cubicle doors were broken, locks were missing, tiles cracked and/or damaged, and damp patches on the ceiling.

When we spoke to some of the other customers it was apparent that most of them were from outside of the Wakefield area, and were either on business, or training courses. With Buzz being the only main stream late night club open, and the attraction of a 1970s night, they had decided to give it a “go”.

Locarno Boy Note – we had visited Buzz on an earlier weekend night, but did not take notes, although we remember a great section of differing music styles in different rooms, plus a friendly and switched on management team – who were highly regarded by the licencing authorities.

We were particularly impressed on that occasion by the 50s room, which was full of young people dancing to their “parents” music, although we suspected that if the parents did come along the young people would quickly scarper.


Image from localdatasearch.com


A visit to Preston and Tokyo Joes in the late 90s

We made a visit to Preston and Tokyo Joe`s in the late 90s.

It was a Saturday night, and the Church Street area was packed with people in their late teens and early 20s. The streets were littered with  tickets. Some offering £1.00 off admission  for Tokyo`s, with others offering the same deal for Arrabella`s  nightclub and show bar plus 10 weeks of discounted drinks promotions.

There was a heavy police presence; with a large van, two cars and a dog van, all parked opposite Tokyo`s.

A steady stream of coaches, mini-coaches and taxis delivered masses of customers to the club.

Security staff turned away lots of males wearing ear rings and bright green or orange shirts, also those with very short hair. After being refused they stood outside in groups, increasing the confusion, making it difficult for others to enter the premises, and adding to the loud, bawdy, and base atmosphere.

A young man staggered by and crashed into Wilkinson`s shop window, stunning himself, before lurching into the middle of the road, where he fell over and stopped the traffic. When a motorist went to help him, he wanted to fight. Much to the delight of immature excitement seekers.

We first visited Yates`s, where the door staff were friendly, and the room dingy. They had attempted to create a club atmosphere, but in terms of attendance had failed.

The Original Square/Wall Street was very busy, with a permanent queue of 50 people waiting for entry. Again, the door supervision was good, but here the atmosphere was exciting, with some of the clientele much older than those in Yates`s. The centre piece to the room was a huge video cube mounted in the ceiling, creating a four sided video disco, although no one seemed much interested in it.

The Old Bull was  special; with a well dressed clientele in the 25 to 40 age range. Low music, the sound of conversation and pleasant staff. Lovely.

We had visited Arrabella`s on a previous occasion, and had felt quite uncomfortable. Maybe it was the disposition of the older customers. Whatever. We had no intentions of visiting again.

We began to enter Tokyo`s around 10 o`clock. But what a confusion.

Pre-booked  parties became engulfed within the coach parties. Paying customers became confused with those being refused entry. All of which seemed to be unnoticed by  door staff.

The only way to get into the foyer was by pushing our way in. Once inside the mood was transformed by the friendly box office staff, pleasing aesthetics of pink and blue neon and red and black décor of the bar. Admission was £4 before 10pm, £5 before 11pm, and £6 after.

It was now time to enter the reception area, so we were herded into an area just passed the bar.

And the mood changed again. We were now subjected to a DJ and his partner whipping up the less mature and more inebriated customers into a frenzy, as more and more people pushed into the area.

Then it was now time for audience participation!!

And what better than a fake orgasm competition for the unfortunate brides to be. And there was  no escape. Off the DJ scampered into the ladies toilet to retrieve one unfortunate victim, while another suffered the ignominy of being given a microphone, and the DJ standing behind her and in a hgh voice shouting “Push it up me….Harder……Harder”.

And even more people crushed into the restricted area.

Next came the predicable Party music, headed up by YMCA. Drinks sprayed the crowd as enthusiastic males danced like there was no tomorrow. Some of the girls looked terrified, and a short fight broke out amongst a small group of males, who could not swing a decent punch due to the overcrowding.

And even more people crushed into the overcrowded area.

Around 10.30pm the DJ played his “piece de resistance”.

Chumbawumba – “I get knocked down”, where the previous audience participation to YMCA paled into insignificance, as blurrey eyed males raised one fist in the air and tried to run backwards and forwards chanting….. you got it …….. “I get knocked down”.

Then we were  allowed into the main room higher level.

Then a little later into the main room, where the atmosphere grew and and grew as the room filled with a sea of dancers. Door supervisors stood on boxes so as to see over the crowd.

The DJ told the girls to dance their tits off (not sure if any of them did) – but they certainly tried.

We had a “Regional Manager alert” when Peter Bowden appeared in the DJ consul, followed by announcements to advertise the Back Beat Beatles on the coming Monday, and a free bar at 9pm on the Tuesday plus a visit from Fred Elliot from Coronation Street.

The DJ later he asked for a “Big Fuck Off Welcome”  for a dancer from the Hit Man and Her show.

A couple attempted to make love in one of the darker seating area, but were prevented by a stocky lady selling roses. Don`t think the door staff were too pleased about that.

Food sales were brisk in the Japanese themed dining area. Probably to do with the “£1.00 Off Vouchers” lying around. Clearly this helped with the licensing requirement of the time (sales of alcohol ancillary to food), and even more attractive by menu prices prices ranging from £2.10 for cheese or chicken burgers and pizzas at £1.60.

Those were the days!

The only noticeable management was a tall, slim, dark haired lady lady of around 25 years old, and a shortish bespectacled man wearing a bright waistcoat and a bow tie.

Wonder where they are now?

We left around 1.30am, passing a poster in reception reminding us that Preston could be a dangerous place at night. Probably not though considering the number of police on duty in the Church Street area.

So what did we think of Tokyo`s?

Well, we liked it for what it was. Somewhere for young working people to enjoy their Saturday night out. The club gave them what they expected, and they were prepared to travel in coaches and mini-buses to get there. A good solid business – giving the customers what they wanted. How they wanted it. In the style they wanted.

And they would be back week after week to help with –

At least a good solid £20.000 in the tills for the night`s work.

Bring it on!


Image from ha.ax 


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