TagParadise Lost

The Birth of the Black Orchid – Despite the Disaster of trying to turn the Albert Hall into Babylon

Finding a site for a suitable nightclub in any town or city was always difficult. Especially back the 1980s, when everyone attending a nightclub, restaurant etc after 11pm had to consume a substantial meal so as to allow them to consume alcohol. Add to this the vociferous jockeying of the existing nightclub managers/owners who wanted to retain  the status quo, and often fuelled the police with stories of “streets of fear”. Although  the police generally took the view that enough was enough. Better the devil you know!

Nottingham was no exception. The city was regarded as prime hunting ground for nightclub customers, although it seemed impossible to even find a site. Never mind locking horns with existing nightclubs and authorities.

Then came a breakthrough. Property developers Wilson Bowen had a suitable site for a “Super Bowl” at Derby, and another one at Lenton Nottingham, which “may be suitable” for a nightclub. The infrastructure was complete, plus a completed Showcase cinema and Sawyers Bar Diner. All on the site of a former council rubbish tip.

Deals were done. Plans drawn. Project meetings planned. Spreadsheets prepared, scrutinised, and prepared again… and again. In amongst all this a trading budget was drawn up, with only the slightest hint of reality, which was deemed necessary to obtain funding.

Everything was looking good. Everyone looked forward to the birth of the Black Orchid – despite the disaster of trying to turn the Albert Hall into Babylon.

The plans and artist impressions were amazing. Terry Wheater and his team at Group Northern had really produced the goods – although those guys had also created Paradise Lost Watford, The Dome and Pagoda Park Birmingham, Pink Coconut Derby and a host of other multi-million pounds profit earners.

Everyone was ecstatic until it was realised that this would be one of the first night clubs in the country to fall under the new “Disabled Access” legislation.Then it was discovered that the chairman of the licensing committee had a disabled daughter who enjoyed nightclubs.

Back to the drawing board. Although it seemed that by providing access for a wheelchair to all facilities the project was scuppered, with the new plans presented in sombre mood. The building looked  odd; all ramps, slides and hiding places. Albeit with beautiful lighting and decor. Something of a giant Hamster Utopia.

Matters took a turn for the worse at the Entertainment Licence meeting, when the chairman announced that he had a disabled daughter, who would not want to go to the Black Orchid. Because it looked like a discotheque for the disabled, and she wanted enjoy a discotheque for the able-bodied.

After an awkward silence he smiled and said that she did not need access to every bar, or every restaurant or dancefloor. All she needed was to be able to enter and leave the building safely, get to a bar, toilet, and a dancefloor, and to be able to have a meal.

Smiles all round until he noticed the strapline “Dancing and Cavorting” and asked what was meant by “cavorting”. “Enjoying yourself”, came the reply, his look suggested that he interpreted it as “to behave in a physically lively and uninhibited way”. Mmm!

And the reality was that approximately one and half million customers danced and cavorted at what was to become one of the UK`s most iconic nightclubs.

Finally – In case anyone wonders how the name Black Orchid came about….

That`s simple.

The star of the horseracing world at that time was Desert Orchid!

 

“You don’t need doormen in Paradise”

It all started on the Thursday night in what was billed “The most beautiful discotheque in the World” Paradise Lost in Watford. And what a truely beautiful venue it was, lakes, waterfalls, fountains, bridges two dance floors and three restaurants one being French.

The General Manager – Andy McGrath had recently arrived from the Pink Coconut in Brighton, and on this particular Thursday night there was an incident where a customer was stuck by one of our doormen.

On the Friday night Andy interviewed the doorman in question and decided to suspend him while he conducted further inquiries. The remaining Door staff did not like this course of action and threatened Andy that if he did not change his mind they would walk out. It was a Friday night with an expected crowd of 2,000 ,coupled with the fact that the club had a troublesome past, only six months before one of our doorman was shot whilst standing on the front door and things had only started to calm down with the induction of this new door team.

Surely Andy would find a compromise… His reply to the threat was “I’m not changing my mind” with that the doormen collected their belongings and left. The time was 22.30hr’s and I was left on the front door on my own.

I stopped letting people in, closed the doors and cleared reception.

Andy then appeared in reception asking why the doors were shut. I said Andy we haven’t got any doorman!!!

Andy replied…”You don’t need doormen in Paradise” with that the doors were opened and between the four Managers we got through the night incident free.

Andy Mcgrath a living legend.

 

Images from kajafax.co.uk and facebook

 

“Don’t forget to get receipts”

I was working at Paradise Lost in Watford when Mark Overton (GeneralManager) called me into his office and informed me that Peter Loader(Regional Manager) wanted me to visit a club the Company had just brought in Uxbridge called Regals.

They had bought the club with the existing Manager and felt there may be a problem with the club and wanted me to have a look at the bar operation during an operational night, it would be the first time that I was asked to perform such a task and was excited.So the date was set and I was told the Manager did not know I was coming, just behave like a normal customerI was told.

On receiving the £20 petty cash from Mark I ask if he thought that £20 was enough because I would have to pay for petrol and entrance into the club he replied “Your not going there to enjoy yourself”, and I left with his words “Don`t forget to get receipts” ringing in my ears.

On paying and entering into the club you could feel straight away it was not a First leisure club it had a very rough and ready feel in reception and asking for a receipt for my entrance was a ritual in itself, (hardly the act of a normal customer) and was told I could collect the receipt on my way out,

Whilst at the bar I witnessed bar staff placing drinks at the end of the bar and doormen picking them up and disappearing with them aa well as various other naughty naughies.

Later whilst sitting at the bar one of the bar staff who had just come onto the bar shouted out “He works at Paradise Lost” another then shouted “He’s been watching us all night” and immediately a doorman who was at the bar grabbed hold of me and was soon joined by another.

They went on to question me why I was there and I blurted out that I was on a night off and was was curious to see what the club the company had brought was like.

I was then manhandle to reception and whilst one of the doormen was explaining the situation to the manager I remember thinking well at least the Manager was going to save me but he just said, ” Now I know why you wanted a receipt”

Well my early optimism soon turned to dismay realising the end of this story may well be painful.

To be honest getting the receipt was the last thing on my mind I was just wanted to get out in one piece. So I was relieved when they just manhandle me out of the club with a few choice words ringing in my ears..

On arriving back at Paradise Lost still distressed, I informed Mark of my plight.

He commented at the end “Did you get receipts ” lol.

 

Image from freewebs.com

 

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