Published: 00:30, 25 March 2016
Whether you want to dance to a top DJ or nod along to your favourite band, Maidstone has always been one of the most popular places in Kent for a night out.
But over the years, some of our most loved venues have closed down, leaving us with just our memories of the times we spent there.
Here we revisit just 10 of Maidstone’s many lost nightspots. Share your memories of them in the comments section below, and remind us of others you remember fondly.
1. Jumpin Jaks, Lockmeadow Leisure Complex, Barker Road
If you went out in Maidstone in the “noughties”, chances are you ended up doing the Cha-Cha Slide on the stage at JJs, possibly while wearing a pink, glittery cow girl hat.
Known for cheesy music, fancy dress, colourful alcohol and dancing bar staff, Jumpin Jaks was once THE place to end a night out.
Several famous faces visited over the years, one of the most popular being The One and Only one-hit wonder Chesney Hawkes in 2004. The building is now home to Hollywood Bowl.
2. Atomics, Hart Street
In 1991, well-known Maidstone DJ Mick Clark converted an old warehouse into a nightclub and one of the biggest dance music venues in the country was born.
Top DJs graced the decks every weekend including Boy George, Carl Cox, Paul Oakenfold and Judge Jules and the county town’s now famous son Nic Fanciulli cut his teeth there.
The club, home to the infamous Club Class nights, looked different every week, decorated with banners, inflatables and lasers, and clubbers from as far away as France and Germany, as well as all over the south east, danced to hardcore, happy house, drum ‘n’ bass and house over the years. Atomics closed after 11 years and the building was eventually converted into apartments.
3. Union Bar, Pudding Lane
If dance music wasn’t your thing and you were more into indie, rock or metal, you’ve probably stood in the dark depths of Union Bar with beer-fragranced condensation dripping into your hair.
Everyone knows someone who’s seen nineties indie band Ash perform there and other big names include rockers Terrorvision, punk pop band Symposium, ska group Bad Manners, punks Snuff and, we think, Coldplay before they were famous. Union Bar was also the place to discover local talent and Los Salvadores, One Day Elliott, Ran For Days and Six Stage Suicide all played there.
4. Banks Bar, Bank Street
Clubbers of more recent generations will have fond memories of standing in Maidstone’s largest patio garden with a cocktail or a cool beer in hand and the smell of barbecue in the air as big-name DJs played house, electronica, dub and techno.
As the sun set over the River Medway, a bright white marquee filled with raised hands and bodies dancing to tunes by Sasha, Mark Knight, Freemasons, Mr C, Slam and the by-then world famous Nic Fanciulli.
5. Ikon, Liquid and Envy and Wonderland, Lockmeadow, Barker Road
Ok, so these were three separate clubs but they’ve all occupied the same building in relatively recent years. Ikon opened at the end of 1998 and was best known for euphoric, uplifting trance on a Saturday night but also held student party events and eventually inherited the Club Class nights from Atomics.
Judge Jules, Tall Paul, Ferry Corsten and other big DJs of the day helped fill the dance floor, and the stage. Within 10 years the club had been split in two with Liquid offering dance tracks and Envy providing chart tunes and a bit of indie.
Wonderland, inspired by the quirky world of Alice in Wonderland, opened in 2012 and played mainly commercial dance music with famous guests including Radio 1 presenter Nick “Grimmy” Grimshaw, rapper Professor Green and Internet celebrity and football fan The Wealdstone Raider.
Wonderland closed last summer and trampoline park Gravity opened in the building in December.
6. The Loft, Gabriels Hill
Another venue that has been through a number of transformations since it opened, the two-storey building was once home to Warehouse II, a smaller version of the infamous riverside club of the 70s, 80s and 90s (see below). But for the majority of its life it was known as The Loft and featured a whole host of musical genres and nights.
Club Class moved there from Ikon towards the end of the 90s, record label Hed Kandi held nights there, Pete Tong put in an appearance, and who remembers the awkward silence when then-Radio One DJ Zane Lowe failed to mix two tracks together when he headlined the Mixmag tour in 2009? R‘n’b night Rude launched on a Friday in 2003 and local and famous bands played there including Scottish indie group The View.
7. Chicago Rock Cafe, High Street
Chicagos was less about the music and more about drinking, dancing and going “out on the pull”.
Older clubbers felt comfortable letting their hair down on the dance floor alongside their younger contemporaries and the bar served burger and chips and showed football matches on big screens. Chicagos closed in 2013 when owners of the chain went into administration. Two years later the building was occupied by squatters.
8. Davinchis, Liquid Lounge and Beluga Bar, Bank Street
Yet another club that’s morphed from one form to another over the years, this one started out as Davinchis in the late 80s. Back then the club had an underground feel yet played, among other genres, “handbag house” known for its catchy female vocals and accessibility.
As the end of the nineties approached Liquid Lounge opened, with an r‘n’b room downstairs and more commercial music in the main room.
Finally, it became Beluga in 2009 following a £2 million revamp. Celebrities, including former Radio 1Xtra DJ Tim Westwood, singer Ms Dynamite and reality TV star Joey Essex, put in appearances and popular chart songs blasted from the speakers, but the music stopped last year. The building is currently up for sale.
9. Royal Star Hotel, High Street
If anyone over retirement age is still reading at this point – this one is for you.
The Royal Star Hotel was the place to dance the night away to live bands from the late forties until at least the 1960s. Big band leader Ted Heath performed there during the 1950s, as did bowler hat-wearing clarinettist and vocalist Acker Bilk, and in 1968 Status Quo made an appearance.
The hotel, which was visited by Queen Victoria during her reign, was absorbed into the Royal Star Arcade shopping centre in 1989.
10. Warehouse, alongside the River Medway
Finally, we couldn’t do a roundup of lost Maidstone nightclubs without mentioning Warehouse.
Described by many as the birthplace of British dance music, the club easily rivalled London venues in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Warehouse opened in 1979 in a former industrial warehouse, opposite where the Fremlin Walk car park now stands, and DJs led clubbers on a musical journey over the years, playing cheesy 80s, jazz funk, soul, disco and house.
When Warehouse closed in 1991 it was a rave club. Music would be lighthearted until 11pm when the DJ would drop a track such as acid techno favourite Spice by Eon and it would be hard rave music until 2am.
Thank you to Mick Clark, Nathan Martin, Paul Johnson, Rachel Hall and everyone who helped put this piece together.