5 Lost Berkshire Nightclubs That Provided Early Nightlife Experiences
Oh, being an innocent teenager/young adult again, dancing the night away in one of Berkshire’s many nightclubs. Today’s clubgoers will have different experiences of the county’s nightlife, as bars and clubs have transformed over the years.
Old school disco has sadly gone into decline, meaning many of the places that became our second homes have been given new life. As music and social trends change, tough decisions must be made about the future of these much-loved establishments.
Fuzzy memories of sticky floors, drunken antics and huddled around the kebab van linger for many of us, no matter how much time has passed since our first experiences at those big clubs. Despite the multitude of changes in this market, these aspects remain the essential ingredients of a memorable evening for today’s clubbers.
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On our Facebook page, we asked BerkshireLive readers to grow old with a nightclub they used to go to that no longer exists – a name that (though he may be too drunk to remember the details) will never be forgotten by the persons concerned. While many other Berkshire clubs received mentions on our post, such as The Majestic, The Ricky Tick in Windsor and Rebecca’s, these five were perhaps the most frequently named.
What was the first nightclub you visited in Berkshire? Let us know in the comments!
To make a joke
We start by going back to when Top Rank was a great night out from another era. Predating the likes of The Matrix by around four decades, Top Rank was a typical 1960s party located just outside Reading Station and above the entrance to Thames Valley Coach Station.
Host to various events, Top Rank was home to traditional ballroom dancing, as well as “discotheques” as they were called at the time. Local regulars often went dancing here three or four times a week.
There was a grand staircase and two bars – one to the right of the stage as you entered and one upstairs. As the ballroom headed into the 70s, they cashed in on the disco craze of that particular era; after dark, they would wait a long time outside for the few taxis they had at the time.
Many musical artists frequented Top Rank in its heyday, including The George Bradley Band, while other previously unearthed photos show the Miss Vanity Fair semi-finals which also took place here. A BerkshireLive reader recalled: “OMG such great memories, this was the place to go! Remember many boogie parties dancing around our handbags, the good times bring back those days, loved them, a such a great place to meet and socialize.”
An unmissable fun took place during the weekend entertainment. It later became a bingo hall before being demolished as part of one of the previous incarnations of Station Hill development.
One that many Reading locals frequented during their drunken dancing days came in the form of Utopia. People of a certain vintage will remember a time before late night bars when you were faced with the situation of bars closing around 10:30 p.m.
The dilemma then arose whether to try to get a taxi or a bus home or if the night was just beginning. Many of those in the latter camp quickly made their way to Yates – still proudly standing today despite some licensing issues – to catch the bus to Utopia.
The trip to Calcot was part of the fun, although it seemed like hours before a night of fun followed your arrival. For a privileged few (although often representing a considerably higher percentage) there was a nervous wait outside as they were too young to enter (legally).
As was the norm for typical nightclubs, you were greeted with incredibly loud music and went to buy the very expensive drinks. Visitors from as far away as Maidenhead and Swindon could be welcomed at the bar or on the dance floor.
Although it may have the most disgusting toilets in the world apart from the third day of the Reading festival, this was the place to be in the city in the late 90s and early 90s 2000. The super-club par excellence has since become an IKEA.
This particular old club has had several incarnations during its time as part of Reading nightlife. Although it was eventually known as RG1 before its closure, it was previously known, and perhaps most fondly remembered, as Washington Heights.
A long time has passed since we were able to visit this part of town for a boogie. The site could be found by heading towards Caversham before the railway, where these nondescript flats currently stand.
The two-story venue consisted of an upstairs “VIP area” for those looking for a grander experience. A “sunken dance floor” was a prominent feature of the club, including dance podiums that allowed dancers to really impress other visitors.
Built next to the old Chatham Street car park was Level One. This club is fondly remembered by many, while being a place other residents have never heard of.
Its location outside of town made it a favorable club to make your regular. It also built the reputation in the late 90s for gate staff having a somewhat open mind about what the law allowed and what they could get away with. Although its year of closure is not widely known, what is common knowledge is that it was replaced by the apartments that still stand there today.
Maidenhead’s representative in this list is the former Cinderella. This is another club that has gone through many appearances and brand changes. Finally known as Zoots (after a brief period as 5th Avenue), it was the only real nightclub in town. Although not to everyone’s taste, there were far worse places to spend a Friday night.
The bouncers weren’t particularly picky about who they let in, jeans being allowed. Inside was the main dance floor on the lower level and a smaller dance floor above, with large windows so you could see what was going on below. Memories included Colin Webb who “loved it there nerdy as hell saw a few daytime bands there too” and Carole Marshall who “met my husband there 35 years ago!”.
In February 1998, the site was transformed into the Chicago Rock Cafe before being taken over and beginning to market as Roma Club. After that also closed in recent years, the building was demolished and parking can be found in its place.
If you could bring back one of these old clubs, which one would it be?
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