My night at a home for social climbers
Saturday 11 September 1999
I'm waiting for Madonna, Kate Moss, Blur, the Gallagher brothers at least. Instead I'm deafened by screams of "Ricky, Ricky!" Oh God! Ricky from Eastenders. I know he's probably at a loose end, but I really did expect something a bit more, well, star-studded.
The pounds 10m club will bring the south out of the dance dark ages and into the 21st century, its promoters promise. It will be open until 4am and costs just pounds 10. At last, London will have a venue to rival clubs in the north. On this point at least, they appear to have got it spot on. Northerners are already making the pilgrimage to central London's Leicester Square (well I spotted the actor formerly known as Brian Tilsley in Coronation Street hanging out at the bar).
Millionaire Ron McCulloch, a Scottish restaurant, pub and club entrepreneur; promoter Darren Hughes, formally co-owner of Liverpool's highly acclaimed club, Cream; and top British DJ, Paul Oakenfold, director of music, are the three men behind the club.
Spread out over seven floors, if you've got a good sense of direction and shoes fit for hiking, then this is the place for you. You might also need to party with your mobile phone, to locate lost friends. Floors are accessed by two glass lifts and two sets of stairs. Unfortunately, finding the right lift for the right floor can be confusing. The lifts are difficult to stop as the call buttons won't stay lit. By about 1am on Thursday, one of the lifts was totally out of action and awaiting an engineer. So if you hate climbing stairs, forget it. And it's not a good idea to over- indulge. Even if you can find the stairs, you might miss the exit.
Predictably, the area to blag your way into on opening night was the seventh floor, where the chosen could mingle with the "VIPs" in the members' bar. Micro-celebs Jay Kay, Denise Van Outen and the Chemical Brothers were rubbing shoulders there with eminence Grecian 2000, Rod Stewart.
A reporter from Mix Mag, looking somewhat mixed-up, suggested rushing the bouncers to get through. He didn't stand a chance. Others with their wits about them breezed past security, posing as delivery men with empty Tiger beer boxes on their shoulders.
Its central London location guarantees a steady flow of punters. But will they be the right ones? Stray tourists may deter genuine clubbers. White knee high socks, day-glo back packs and soggy "I've been to London" T-shirts do not a cool club scene make.
Promoter Darren Hughes is adamant that the door policy will be rigidly enforced. "We'll only be full of tourists if we let tourists in", he says. His strict team of door pickers will ensure that backpackers and Stringfellows strays do not get in. The clientele has only to worry about tripping over tourists, street entertainers, bums and cops on the way to and from "home".
In truth, the new club is a cut above the tacky tourist traps of Leicester square like Equinox and Hippodrome: the decor is stylish and simple with no garish pink neon or mirrored walls. It feels contemporary, and definitely has potential.
The main arena on the third floor has a balcony and a Hacienda-type feel. The sound system is hyped as the best in the world - I'm no expert, but there were no obvious farting or hissing noises. The music itself was very housey on every floor, which is fine if you like that, but if you're looking for a bit of variety you could be disappointed. Still, there's always the TVs to watch in front of the lifts - they switch from swirly visuals to the queue outside.
Slice, the club's PR, insists image isn't everything: "It's not how you look, it's how you listen, it's who you are". As if to hammer home this point the ladies toilets on the sixth floor have no mirrors. Apparently, this is only temporary. In the meantime, the attendant had a tiny mirror to share between all those desperate to reapply their lippy (and perhaps powder their noses). The men's toilets are hailed as the ultimate peeing experience and have a huge green glass waterfall to urinate up against. "Peeing is believing", boasts the PR. Class or what? Bet you don't get this up north.
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