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Here's what we thought after visiting Party Bar in Folkestone

The traditional nightclub is dying a slow death.

As a generational shift tilts the balance in favour of bars, it’s becoming common to see the clubs that dominated the 90s slowly fade into obscurity.

Reporter Max Chesson visited Party Bar in Folkestone for a fun night out
Reporter Max Chesson visited Party Bar in Folkestone for a fun night out

Yet at the bottom of one of Kent’s most gentrified streets, in a town regularly topping lists of the 'best places to live', is a plucky, resilient nightspot that refuses to die.

Party Bar in Tontine Street, Folkestone, sits a stone’s throw from the revitalised Harbour Arm and a few small steps from the Creative Quarter.

An old-school nightclub that has been known as a few different names in its time - most would be familiar with Jolson’s - it gallantly continues to open its shutters every weekend.

Of course, it wasn’t always fighting the cause alone. The Leas Club closed its doors in 2008, and the building left vacant by Onyx’s, also known as The Priz, burned down in March 2016.

So what can one expect from the last nightclub in what is fast becoming a DFL paradise? I decided to find out.

A party-goer enjoys a beer at The Rum Clinic
A party-goer enjoys a beer at The Rum Clinic
This couple also headed to Party Bar since it was the only nightclub available
This couple also headed to Party Bar since it was the only nightclub available

My night starts in The Rum Clinic, a heavily-Caribbean inspired bar that takes pride in being a fun, friendly, small watering hole.

Going strong since 2017, owner Mama K - also known as Karen Witter - has worked hard to provide a happy atmosphere that celebrates the culture of Jamaica and its neighbours.

I meet some friends here and we spend a good hour or so just chatting away, watching the already-crowded bar fill beyond its capacity.

It is genuinely disappointing to have to leave, and that presents one of the first things to think about when you look at the demise of nightclubs - how much bars have improved.

As I leave The Rum Clinic to head down towards Party Bar, the bouncer wishes me luck. Apparently I’ll need it.

The dance floor took a while to warm up
The dance floor took a while to warm up

Further up Tontine Street and I spot two places I would love to spend some time in.

The Quarterhouse looks lively, and, had it not been closed for a private event, I’d definitely have had a drink at The Old Buoy.

Pottering around the streets of Folkestone at this time of night, it’s eerily quiet.

In the warmth of a sunny day, the seaside town is gathering quite the reputation for being a bustling, desirable place to live.

But lurking in the shadows waiting for nightfall to emerge is a growing issue that nobody seems ready to address - homelessness.

I would guess that I saw more homeless people than any other demographic in the short walk in the town, and it’s a sad reminder that gentrification has not been beneficial to everyone.

Boys and their toys
Boys and their toys

Even the queue outside the Party Bar is sparsely populated when I join it. But six quid and a very thorough search later, I’m in with my neon green bracelet.

At about 11pm it’s bleak. I actually wonder if they’ve forgotten to turn the lights off. No nightclub should ever be this bright.

It's like a working men's club in here. Around me the bravest souls dominate the dance floor, cutting shapes with vigour.

The rest of the crowd tentatively look on, waiting for the right track to come on before making their move. It’s a fairly even split between the two types of club-goers.

Every now and then, a small group will wander off to test their strength on the punching machine, or lose a couple quid on the slots.

The well-hidden second room opened up to allow more rave-minded people to have fun
The well-hidden second room opened up to allow more rave-minded people to have fun

Two workers slide around the constantly beer-soaked dance floor with mops, moving in near-perfect synchronicity as though they were Torvill and Dean.

Looking on the bright side - which is hard not to do - the drinks are tremendously priced and the wait at the bar isn’t too bad at all.

£11.60 for a double vodka-lemonade, a rum and Coke and a Jagerbomb seems fair to me, especially when I see how much alcohol they fill the glasses with.

The music is also decent; it’s a good mix of songs from the past 25 years and is generally producing a nice vibe.

As always, Abba are the unifying choice that gets everyone pumped.

A girl in her early 20s is dancing with a bald man sporting a grey beard who has to be in his late 50s.

I'm grateful to find out the girl is dancing with her actual father and not a sugar daddy.

Groups of clubbers flocked to the floor when ABBA came on
Groups of clubbers flocked to the floor when ABBA came on

But it starts an interesting discussion as I begin to see that for every so-called young person, there’s another who looks like they should have been in bed three hours ago.

And during my time in the club I go from being one of the oldest to one of the youngest. It's genuinely bizarre to see such an eclectic range of people.

In the smoking area outside, a small claustrophobic corridor that hugs the side of the building, I get chatting to two women approaching the last stretch of the race to 40.

Next to us puffing away on a vape is a kid so young he still has braces, so I ask Emma and Louise about the variation of people attending the club.

“It’s a weird crowd, it never used to be like this,” says Emma.

“When we were your age, we wouldn’t come here. I remember it feeling like only over 30s came here.

The women's toilets are in a bad way...
The women's toilets are in a bad way...
The men's toilets aren't in much better nick
The men's toilets aren't in much better nick

“But I can’t be bothered to go up to London nowadays, there’s nowhere else to go here.”

Nowhere else to go is a slightly awkward statement, and as another young person bumps into her without even any acknowledgement she rolls her eyes.

"These kids think they own the place, it's ridiculous.

"There's just no respect; they think because they hear stories about this place being this or that they can just treat it like rubbish."

Louise adds: "If you want a good night out in Folkestone this is where you get it, but you've got to fight a bunch of bratty teens for it first."

It’s a decisive verdict from a self-proclaimed lifelong Folkestone resident and, heading in from the smokers area, the place has picked up quite a bit.

The mop crew continue to work relentlessly, although are a bit too late to save one unfortunate soul from going straight onto his backside.

Most people were in good spirits at Party Bar
Most people were in good spirits at Party Bar

The bouncer doesn’t like the look of this and he really doesn’t like it when the drunk fella gets back up and tries to hug him.

This happens at least twice in the space of 10 minutes.

The cartoonish sight of a bloke approach a woman just to be snubbed never gets old, but it doesn't stop the middle-aged men with blue paint on their face from trying.

The main dance floor is buzzing and it’s around half past midnight that I see the shutters have rolled up to reveal a second room for clubbers to dance the night away in.

The atmosphere in room number two is incredibly different, with strong techno and rave music dominating my eardrums and the smell of damp overwhelming your other senses.

Speaking of damp, there’s a bit too much of it in this place for my liking.

The toilets are a bit of a mess, with a strong army of flies swarming around the urinals. I’m told the women’s facilities are worse.

The best way I can describe it is to liken it to visiting the toilets at an old stately home or a castle. It just smells stale.

Party Bar is Folkestone's last night club
Party Bar is Folkestone's last night club

Back out onto the dance floors and the rave room is looking lively.

As I stand on one of the platforms attempting to dance, I notice that my shoes are glowing and realise the whole room is glow in the dark.

This, compared to the glaring lights of the rest of the club, is fantastic and it offers a much better atmosphere to spend time in - if you can ignore the smell.

In fact, this is the only time it has felt like a club. The rest of the time, Party Bar has had the feel of a disco at a village hall.

But it’s easy to be a snob, and the truth is 90% of people here are just game for a good time.

Security seem to have been on everything and, although a few larger lads look as though they need to prove their dominance, nobody has caused any trouble.

Nothing about this club screams gentrification, and that’s actually a good thing. If you’re looking for a nice, civilised place to drink, this isn’t it.

If you’re up for a laugh, if you don’t mind a lot of dirt round the edges, if you like cheap drinks and somewhere to socialise relatively safely then this is it.

Nothing lasts forever, but I would suggest Party Bar’s owners are doing a decent job making the best of an difficult situation.

It could yet find itself victim to a drawn-out demise, but it'll certainly go down as one of the last old-school nightclubs in Kent.

And to celebrate this, I leave you with some of the final words I hear as I head home for the night: “I f*****g love this place!”

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