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Mapping the Terrible Lost Nightclubs of London

When a friend showed me a forum thread detailing some of London's lost, dreadful clubs, I found myself through the looking glass of a time before student promoters and Uber discount codes.

This post originally appeared in VICE UK.

It might be hard to believe it in the age of The Warehouse Project, fluorescent wristbands, and WKD wingmen, but nightclubs in England haven't always been gleaming cathedrals of youth culture, packed to the sprinklers with hordes of young people having the best night of their lives, as the world's biggest DJs earn more for a b2b set than the rest of us make in a month.


They were often grim, seedy places with reputations for cas​ual violence, low-level gangsterism, carpeted dancefloors, and pla​yboy promoters wearing suits at the dance. Think of the bar where Trigger and Del Boy do their "pla​y it cool" routine, then add guns, speed garage, and cigarette stains, and you've basically got the vibe.

Nowadays, most big clubs look like playgrounds for young adults —full of happy, pouting people in baseball caps and white tees. Back then, they looked like what they were: iniquitous dens of silk, sweat, perfume, blood, and Hooch. Even the bouncers had gold teeth, Valentinos, and dreads.

Garage Nation at The Colosseum in Vauxhall, 1999

But a part of me has always been fascinated by the seedy, sticky world of the London clubbing culture I never really got to experience, bar a few ludicrous attempts to get into such places in my mid-teens. When a friend showed me this urban75 ​forum thread detailing some of London's lost, dreadful clubs, I found myself through the looking glass of a time before student promoters, SIA licenses, snapback techno, and Funktion-Ones. An era in which clubs were still called things like "Sinatra​'s" rather than "something studios." A time when you were more concerned about leaving with your life than a promotional Uber credit.

Intrigued by the dark nostalgia at play on the forum, I began researching some of the places getting namechecked, reading about the stories of door-staff ​shanking punters and Gary Lucy be​i​ng famous enough to get on the guest list. I wondered what happened to these clubs, if they were still operating under new management, or if they'd all become burrito stalls.


With the help of Google Maps and some of the wonderful, accidental poetry from the forum, I tried to map the sad demise of London's lost, terrible clubs. Each photo shows the club as it is today, while the memories are laid out in text beneath.

Manhattan Lights, Muswell Hill

Manhattan's, Palmers Green

Melanie's, Hendon

The Irish Fighting Barns of Kilburn

Broadway Boulevard, Ealing

Twilights, Sydenham

Cheeko's, Archway

Cheeko's, Archway (again)

The Elbow Rooms, Angel Islington

Blue Orchid, Croydon

Flamingo's, Woolwich

Eros, Enfield

Cinderella's, Purley

Dingles, Fulham Broadway (exact location unknown)

Cheekee's, Staines

Caesars, Streatham

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