After having played as a DJ at castles, clubs, beach and pool parties around the world, it is a closed down bar in a hidden courtyard off one of Leeds’ oldest city streets that has sparked a new enthusiasm for a renowned club promoter.
Kane Towning says it has been a hard decision to call time on his plane hopping, island hopping party lifestyle after 15 years but his new venture - with long-term business partner and fellow DJ Tom Zanetti - is what has excites him about the current going out scene.
Dollhouse is set to open at the end of the month in what was the former Red Door bar in Hirst’s Yard.
Towning and Zanetti, both Leeds born and bred, have been looking for a venue of their own in the city for around five years after having said at the beginning of their careers as teenagers “one day we will have our own place”.
And now they have, and Dollhouse is a culmination of the best bits of the best venues they have played in at parties all over the globe.
Towning said: “We stood outside and saw the traditional windows and the balcony and it looked like a doll’s house and the design went from there. It is a fantasy land where you go and play and it takes you away from real life and that is what we want - for people to feel happier than when they came in.
“We have been promoters for 15 years and thrown parties in beach bars, boat parties, pool parties, castles - you name it we have pretty much done it in England and overseas.
“Everything that we have learned and loved from all those venues and the best bits, we have put into this place. It is a natural progression from having played at other people’s venues to having our own.”
They signed the lease in February and have been transforming the venue beyond recognition into an instagram lovers dream.
Think pink, flowers, birdcages, botanical, flamingos and a carousel where you would least expect it and you are there.
There are two sections to the venue with a ground floor bar serving cocktails and drinks to people passing by but upstairs is where the real magic happens.
VIP booths, and these actually are VIP, can be hired out for up to 10 people with a minimum spend of £600 and if you are making a monster of a night of it, take the ‘Owner’s Table’ booth for a group of 20 for a cool £900 a night.
“We have gone overboard. But we didn’t want a bar that is generic that anyone could have done. When you walk in here and leave - you know that you have been in The Dollhouse.
“We have an eye on the market and we understand that clubbers are a dying breed. People don’t want to be in a dingy bar at 6am, people want to be dressed up, they want to be seen in a nice place.”
Towning and Zanetti, aka K.O Kane, have been in the music industry since they were teenagers, mixing tapes, selling them at Leeds Market, taking gigs anywhere in the UK before working their way up to their own festivals, record label and residencies in the likes of Ibiza and Marbella.
More recently, Zanetti played in the Love Island villa last year, bagging himself a Love Island girlfriend for a time while Towning, opting for a more low-key profile, has remixed Meduza’s ‘Piece of Your Heart’ with Josh Hunter and has been filling dancefloors across Europe and landed plays on BBC Radio One.
But, he got his ultimate gig last year when he was booked to play at Ushuaia Beach Hotel in Ibiza where rooms easily top 1,000 euros a night and entry into the club is 60 euros a night.
Towning says: “We would never have opened anywhere but Leeds. You can’t beat Leeds for a vibe. A lot of DJs that we have booked from London to play in Leeds say it is the best place to play. There is no pretentiousness, everybody is up for a good time.”
The logistics and operations of opening a running a bar are brand new to the duo, but the challenge and learning curve is just the change that Towning was looking for.
He added: “For me personally with promoting and DJing, at the start of this year, I started to feel like I had pretty much done everything that I wanted to do. I got a booking for Ushuaia and that was always my ultimate.
“I have festivals, club nights, underground parties, parties where there are 5,000 people - there was nothing more that I wanted.
“It became a job rather than a passion. I could have done a few more years but would never have opened this place. I needed more excitement to learn a completely new side of the business, especially the building and designing a bar, this has been.
“It was a hard decision, I was a DJ first and foremost and I still love it and I will DJ down here but right now, this is what excites me.”
It won’t stop there though. Even though Dollhouse is yet to host what will be the mother of all opening parties - Towning is already thinking of spin-offs. Look out for Dollhouse club and beach bars....