Leeds nostalgia: Nightclubs of the past gave “the youth” something to do

One of the bars at Jumpin Jaks. (for ed ads Majestic Night Club and Jumpin Jaks, City Sq, Leeds)
One of the bars at Jumpin Jaks. (for ed ads Majestic Night Club and Jumpin Jaks, City Sq, Leeds)
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When, in 1996, a Leeds nightclub applied to extend its opening hours from 11pm to midnight, council licensing chiefs treated the matter with a great deal of seriousness.

Nearby residents were interviewed, there was a site visit and the matter went before the licensing committee for debate. After much deliberation, it was agreed to allow the Upstairs Downstairs nightclub on Armley Ridge Road to open for a trial period of three months with its new opening hours.

These days it seems run of the mill for a nightclub to be able to open pretty much when it wants but that was before licensing laws were relaxed.

The Leeds Pentagon Nightscene opened in September 1973 and was described as “an oasis where wining, dining and dancing, and above all relaxing, were the main aims of the proprietors”.

It was part of a chain, run by the Longley brothers. The Leeds branch took over the shell of the burned-out Rycrofts building on the corner of Briggate and Call Lane. In general, it was welcomed by the city as helping transform the area.

In January of that year, Leeds City Council met to discuss the merits of nightclubs in general.

Coun R H Sedler noted: “There are whole areas of the city where young people have virtually nothing to do in the evening and where they want a little more glamour than just playing ping-pong.”

Opposing him on one front, Coun A C Johnson hit back with: “We don’t see why private enterprise should have it all its own way.”

At the time, nightclubs and dance halls had to adhere to a strict decibel limit of 96 but this was considered inappropriate by some

In the early 1980s, there was the Le Phonographique nightclub in the Merrion Centre and down on York Place, there was Digby’s Disco, which had a green telephone box inside the club. There was also the Take Five club on Vicar Lane.

At Le Phonographique you could grab yourself a quarter-pound burger in a bun with French fries for a very respectable £1.30 and a ploughman’s lunch for £1.10, while a bottle of Leibraumilch would set you backl £2.90. High times indeed for the nightclub scene.

Turn the clocks back even further to 1966 and there was even an attempt by the church to open up a nightclub “with the same dimly-lit sleazy atmosphere as unregistered nightclubs” which also sold alcohol.

The controversial plan was unveiled by the Rev Gordon Inman, Vicar of Arthington and the Diocesan Youth Adviser to the Bishop of Ripon.

The church-run night spot was an experiment by the Leeds Council for Christian Youth. In the end, councillors refused to allow it to sell alcohol and the council was forced to issue an apology, saying: “The council deeply regrets the adverse pubiclity given to part of its experimental youth project... The aim of part of the project is to express in some way the compassion of Christ to young people not normally attracted by church youth clubs.

In 1969, a report in the YEP noted disquet from the police over the New Embassy nightclub, Kirkgate, which it said was “frequented by members of the criminal fraternity.”

We’d like to hear your memories of the nightclubs of Leeds.