Is there more for Olivers?

It cost £1million to open. It is in the centre of Huntingdon and it has been closed for six months after a noise abatement order. Is Oliver s Nightclub a white elephant or could it have another use? ANGELA SINGER finds out. THE OWNER THE future of Oli

It cost £1million to open. It is in the centre of Huntingdon and it has been closed for six months after a noise abatement order. Is Oliver's Nightclub a white elephant or could it have another use? ANGELA SINGER finds out.

THE OWNER

THE future of Oliver's Night Club in Huntingdon looks rocky. Or rather it doesn't. Whatever happens there, the place is not going to rock because that would make too much noise.

David O'Brian, the current owner, closed the club in September saying he could not afford to sound-proof the building to comply with a noise abatement order.


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His position has not altered, but he told The Hunts Post he has not given up hope that an investor will come along to revive the project.

However, he concedes that "99 per cent" of the people who have expressed an interest in the premises have failed to follow through.

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The problems are that currently the venue, which was built as a cinema, has no windows, no seating, no stage, no kitchen and no parking of its own.

Mr O'Brian has 23 years left to run on a 25-year lease that is currently costing him around £10,000 a year (this will increase to £15,000 a year in 10 years' time).

Yes, he could hand back the keys and walk away but he says having spent £1million on the place he unsurprisingly doesn't "want to lose that money".

Mr O'Brian said he can no longer run the business because he has exhausted his funds, but believes the venue can only be used for entertainment.

"It could not be used as a theatre because there is no stage and no seating. There are no windows. It could not be used for offices or storage because it is on the first floor - and it needs meticulous planning whatever you do, because it is close to a conservation area."

However, there is a bar and sound and lighting facilities.

Ironically, he says, the noise abatement order would not apply if someone else took the club over.

"The order names me, David O'Brian, at my home in Stukeley Meadows - it does not even name the other three directors."

Mr O'Brian, who opened the club in August 2005, told The Hunts Post last week that he has been left in dire financial straits after court costs of £36.750 on top of spending £1million to turn the building, formerly Cromwell's Cinema, into a modern night club.

"I have been approached by a number of business people but 99 per cent of them are never heard of again. What it needs is someone prepared to invest about £200,000 in the club. It needs new décor and a new image and then someone needs to take over the lease and start again.

"Essentially, it's a 'turn key' business because you could turn the key in the door and start it up again. All you have to do is turn on the lights, stock the fridges and go."

WHY IT SHUT

THE landlords at The Market Inn, Nicola and Paul Harvey who live at their pub, five metres from Oliver's, made a complaint to Huntingdonshire District Council about the noise.

They said, as the only nearby residents, they were not consulted before the club opened. This led to a noise abatement order, an appeal in the courts and then a decision to close the club.

Huntingdonshire District Council, David O'Brian's landlords, served him with the noise abatement order. He said he could not afford to sound proof the building and closed the club in September.

The Harveys are unrepentant, saying that if the pub, restaurant and taxi trade is down in Huntingdon it is not because of the closure of Oliver's, it is because of the smoking ban.

Mrs Harvey said: "The ban was introduced in July and by September when the weather got cooler, it started to taken an effect and this is what has affected trade, not the closure of Oliver's.

"It's been heaven since it has shut, we can go to bed and sleep. It was horrendous with noise up to 4am three nights a week. We are five metres away, we pay extortionate business rates and we have to live on the premises. We could not be coherent opening our doors at 11am if we had been kept awake all night."

EFFECT ON NIGHTLIFE

TERRY Downing, a member of Huntingdon Town Centre Partnership, Huntingdon Business Network and chairman of the board of trustees for the Commemoration Hall in Huntingdon, said the closure of Oliver's had brought a "devastating" effect on the night life of the town.

He said: "People have told me that restaurant takings are down by 30 per cent. Huntingdonshire District Council is David's landlord and I think they should have worked with David to sort the situation out. They leased the building to him, they knew he was putting a night club in there - then all of a sudden something happens and there is no support for him - and now he's gone. How did they expect him to run a disco without making any noise?"

Mark Wenn, landlord of The Falcon, added: "Huntingdon nightlife: It's killed it. It's down by about 30 per cent on Friday and Saturday nights. We have tried discos and karaoke but it's not the same as having a night club nearby."

SUGGESTED FUTURE USE

A centre for dance and gym - Property guru, Sharon Naish, owner of Ashwood Property Management with offices in Huntingdon and Cambridge said: "We need something for the young people in the town, offering activities like dance and gym, perhaps classes in rap and street dance. I go to ceroc at the Priory Centre in St Neots and it's always packed.

"There is a huge revival of dance. Balloom has made a comeback and there could be a market for tea dances. People enjoy ceroc and salsa and it is being taught in a lot of small venues but perhaps there is room in Huntingdon for a professional dance centre.

Dine and dance: Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses in Huntingdonshire Malcolm Lyons said: "It's a shame that something of that nature closes. All towns should have a night-time economy. The building is suited to the leisure industry, perhaps it could become a dinner and dance venue but it has to be liaised with the district council. They have to get it right this time and the council has to honour its licence."

Young people's internet café: Jonathan Salt, organiser of the award-winning St Ives Youth Theatre said: "A lot of adults pay lip service to listening to young people but they don't really empower them. I would like to see a café centre - possibly an internet café and venue - run by young people for young people. They could run the place, try out healthy menus and put on entertainment.

"It could be their space, in the centre of town and somewhere they felt safe and valued.

"It could extend a hand to young people who have dropped out of school - or messed up at school and find they have no qualifications and they can't get work. They end up at the bottom of the pile, disenfranchised from society and feeling rejected. We need to stop them falling prey to drugs and crime."

Rehearsal Space: Bob Pugh of Huntingdon Drama Society said: "There may be some tie-in with the use of the Commemoration Hall. Possibly it could be used as a multi-purpose space for drama and music, including rehearsal space. It is a hugely wasted space at the moment."

HAVE YOUR SAY:

DO you have an idea on how Oliver's could be used? Write to: Oliver's Debate, The Hunts Post, 30 High Street, Huntingdon, PE29 3TB or e-mail news@huntspost.co.uk

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