Rink on the brink: A rave has taken London's only rollerskating club into profit. But now its future is under threat from the council. James Style reports
Wednesday 15 December 1993
With a turnover of more than pounds 1m a year, quite a few Londoners are making the trek. But it was not always so. When Roller Express's co-owners, Lisa and Finbar, took over the venue in January 1992, it had debts of over pounds 1m. Finbar, now 30, grew up rollerskating. 'I was brought up in Neasden and back then the Starlight in Hammersmith was the place to be.' Famous in the early Eighties, the Starlight was the UK's first rollerdisco and proved enormously successful for a while. It's now a block of flats next to Hammersmith Police station. But Finbar had the skating bug. 'Roller Express is London's only roller rink and I couldn't understand why it wasn't successful. It's purpose-built, with two rinks and has a sound-system and lighting rig to match the Hammersmith Apollo.'
On Saturday nights the skates go back in their racks and Roller Express hosts one of London's biggest raves, the Pirate Club. 'It makes more money than the whole of the rest of the week put together,' says Lisa. Unfortunately, Enfield Council, who last year granted a 6am licence, has now decided it no longer wants a large rave on its patch and has obtained an ex parte injuction, in an attempt to withdraw Roller Express's licence to trade. Lisa and Finbar have appealed against this and for the moment can continue, but they are finding life difficult. Cars are stopped and searched by police, and the Health and Safety officer has provided them with an onerous list of regulations to which they must comply.
Finbar finds the whole business depressing. 'All our local ward councillors wrote letters to support us, but the licensing board would not allow them to be used in evidence. What really annoys me is that this is a hard-up area. We're putting money in people's pockets, doing our best to help the community.'
The weekly rave seems no different to any others around the capital: large signs warn against the use of drugs and the bouncers give an almost embarrassingly intimate search as one enters. But unless Enfield Council relents, it seems that Roller Express is going the same way as the Starlight. Only this time the rink will not be converted into flats but will lie to rot. . . And London will no longer have a roller rink.
Roller Express, Lea Valley Trading Estate, Angel Rd, Edmonton, London N8 (081-807 7345)
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