Further to a recent feature on the former Cavendish Club, many readers will no doubt have fond memories of other nightclubs that were once an integral part of Blackburn’s night-time economy and social scene.

There are no longer any nightclubs open in the town, but at one point in the not-so-distant past there were typically around half a dozen venues to choose from. Names such as Peppermint Place, Manhattan Heights, Mr. G’s, Never Never Land/C’est La Vie/Khaz Bar, Jumpin’ Jaks (later Liquid & Envy) and Jazzy Kex (once the Regency Casino) were an integral part of a night out on the town.

Readers may also remember the Dirty Duck, as well as the infamous Top Hat club which was located opposite the Sir Charles Napier pub on Limbrick and sometimes known as the Flying Bottle or the Flat Cap.

It had a reputation for being rather lively! Slightly further out of the town centre, in Mill Hill, once stood Sutty’s Place nightclub on Moorgate Street, now housing, with the venue previously called the Moorgate Marina.

It was owned by well-known local licensee and businessman Geoff Sutcliffe and his company Moorgate Leisure, which also had Mr G’s in its portfolio, later rebranded as Generations Nitespot in the mid 1990’s.

There was a wide range of pubs and bars to choose from on the town centre circuit, including the one-time Barbary Coast circuit of pubs, before “going up Cav” (a reference to the one-time Cavendish Club) or one of the other popular nightspots. The evening would finish for many with a late-night curry and a taxi home from one of the firms based on Darwen Street.

Even the Council got in on the action and in addition to its own very popular Blakeys bar on the ground floor of King George’s Hall, Club Tropicana was a successful club night held in the basement. This ran for many years and featured the popular local entertainer, DJ Skippy who continues to play to the crowds at pubs and bars in the town. Discreet signage for Club Tropicana can still be seen outside the front of King George’s Hall alongside the entrance doors to the basement.

Probably the most impressive looking of the “new” clubs to be launched was Manhattan Heights next to the old Tommy Balls complex on Ciceley Lane. This launched in 1989, complete with a 1950’s Cadillac on the roof and an imposing American street scene outside. Inside, the Liberty Street restaurant served hungry clubbers and there was a sister bar alongside called Sugar Hill.

Manhattan Heights suffered a major fire a couple of years after opening and £100k was invested in a relaunch, with the club being bought from the receivers by a local businessman Alan Taylor in October 1992. A few years later the club was rebranded under the names of Northern Lights and latterly Millennium in 1997 a couple of years before its final closure.

Whilst not a nightclub as such, 1989 was the year that the legendary “Live the Dream” Acid House party took place in fields in Tockholes, putting Blackburn well and truly on the map for dance music. The rave attended by 3000 people took place on the 16th September 1989 and was still going on at 9am the following morning with the bass from the sound system audible over much of that side of Blackburn.

Sadly, from around the late 1990’s, the nightclub scene in the town was in terminal decline. Manhattan Heights which had finished its days as Millennium ironically closed its doors in 1999. Despite significant investment, the club only had a lifespan of 10 years, most of it being demolished in 2002 to the delight of firefighters who had dealt with numerous arson attacks since the club’s closure. At the time in an interview with the Lancashire Telegraph, Station Officer Aidan Fortune, of Blackburn Fire Station, said: "We are very pleased that this building is being demolished. It hasn't caused us so many problems lately, but there was a big fire there last August (2001). Because of the number of fires there, it has become very dangerous.”

In February 2007, the £7m Cathedral Court building project was started by Margo Grimshaw which would see the now closed Mr G’s, Never Never Land and C’est La Vie nightclubs demolished and replaced by several dozen new apartments.

Heaven and Hell (Peppermint Place, as was) closed in April 2007, Jazzy Kex around 2012 and the final large club to stay open, the 1260 capacity Liquid and Envy (previously Jumpin’ Jaks) closed its doors for good at the beginning of January 2015. Its owners, the major nightclub operator, Luminar Leisure, stated trading conditions and a reduction in customer numbers had made it unviable. Luminar themselves had originally gone into administration in 2011 mainly due to the increasing pressure on the nightclub industry.

The town was devoid of nightclubs until 2017, when there was the first of several attempts to relaunch a nightclub in the former Liquid and Envy building on St. Peter Street (some readers will also remember the same building under the Locarno or Golden Palms names). Following a brief spell as Nocturnal, in early 2018 after a £250k investment in the venue, Switch Nightclub was launched in blaze of publicity with some big name DJ's, but closed around six months later. Another attempt was made to launch the club as Code, but this also failed after just eleven days of trading and the venue was closed for good in October 2018 and put up for auction in January 2019. As far as nightclubs go in Blackburn, that is the end of the story, or at least for the time being.

Having myself worked as a DJ for Northern and Luminar Leisure for the best part of a decade during the heyday of clubs, it’s sad to see the decline of much of our once vibrant nightclub industry. The downturn in Blackburn has been a similar story in many towns and cities across the country. The granting of late licences to most bars and pubs that were previously obliged to close at 11pm, the smoking ban (nightclubs have never been known for their outdoor drinking space) and changes in consumer habits, amongst other reasons, no doubt contributed to the decline.

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