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.
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