Preston fire: Cost of Odeon and Tokyo Jo's blaze mounts up as city centre businesses remain closed

The cost of the Preston cinema and nightclub fire could run into seven figures as demolition work continues in the city centre.

By Brian Ellis
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 4:23 pm

The vast former Odeon building, which once housed a string of popular venues from the Top Rank, to Clouds, Tokyo Joe's, Lava and Ignite and Evoque, is being flattened - although there are hopes its art deco frontage can be saved.

But nearby businesses have also paid a heavy price for what could turn out to be more than a week's takings for some as a tight security cordon still prevents many of them from re-opening on safety grounds.

Former Miss World contestant Elizabeth Grant, who works at the Detroit Motown and Soul Bar - the nearest venue to the inferno - paid a visit to the scene today and was told it could be up to 10 days before the business is back up and running.

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First picture inside the front entrance to the former Odeon Cinema.

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Recently opened Hopwoods Tap House, also next door to the fire-ravaged Odeon, was still closed today and fenced off - although it was hoping to open its doors again by tea-time.

And numerous other hospitality venues in the immediate area of the demolition site were also prevented from inviting customers back as safety officers continued to block off Avenham Street, Main Sprit Weind and Syke Street while the delicate job of dismantling the precarious remains of the building went on.

"It's been a pretty bad weekend for us," admitted Oli Ingram, area manager for the company which runs both Hopwoods and its sister venue Baluga Bar across the road.

Tony Hayhurst was a regular at the Odeon in his younger days - and also at Clouds nightclub.

"We had to evacuate both at around 7:30 to 8:00 on Thursday night. Hopwoods has remained closed since then because it is right next door to the building.

"It affected Baluga on Friday during the day, but then we were able to open up on Friday night. But it was reduced trade all weekend because of the roads being shut.

"We have now been cleared by the building inspectors to re-open Hopwoods at 4pm today. But it's been a real struggle for everyone round here since Thursday."

Over at Detroit, in Main Sprit Weind, the picture was not so rosy today. The narrow alley between the bar and the scene of the blaze was still shut and demolition crews were unable to say when it would be safe to re-open it.

Former projectionist Harry Hindle outside the devastated Odeon cinema.

"It's so frustrating," said Elizabeth who won the Miss England title in 2016 to earn a place in the Miss World Finals in the United States.

"I've been told it could be seven to 10 days before we will be able to open again. It could be earlier, but no-one knows for sure at the moment.

"We have already lost the entire weekend due to the fire and now it looks like we could lose next weekend too - and maybe even the Jubilee bank holidays as well."

Soul band The Real Thing are booked for a sell-out gig at the bar this coming Friday.

Workmen have been inside the front section of the building as demolition work goes on at the back.

"Unless we can find an alternative venue for that then we could lose it," added Elizabeth. "We've got so many bookings and there are so many people ringing up to check when we're re-opening.

"We were the closest venue to the fire when it went up, so obviously it's up to the safety people."

The blaze has not just destroyed the huge building and affected nearby businesses, it has also left thousands of people close to tears seeing a place they remember fondly from as far back as the sixties and seventies reduced to ashes.

Former Odeon projectionist Harry Hindle, 75, worked there fifty years ago and still recalls the cinema in its heyday.

"It's very sad looking at the building in such a state," he said. "I know it had been closed for many years, but that place meant a lot to thousands of people - not just the cinema but also the Top Rank ballroom and the other nightclubs that followed.

"I can remember having to haul the heavy reels of film up the stairs to the projection room right at the top of the building. There would be six reels in cans which had to go up there by hand because there wasn't a lift.

Demolition work is continuing on what remains of the old Odeon cinema and Tokyo Joe's nightclub.

"Like all Odeon cinemas it was a great place. It had the latest technology, we were dealing with advanced machinery - at least it was advanced in those days."

BBC Radio Lancashire presenter John "Gilly" Gillmore stopped in Church Street today to pay his respects to a venue which used to be a favourite for colleagues on his previous station Red Rose Radio and its sister station Rock FM.

"Rock FM used to do party nights there when it was Tokyo Joe's," said John. "They were very popular.

"I remember going to the cinema there soon after I joined Red Rose to a press preview of 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit.' That shows how long ago it was. I think the cinema closed not long after that.

“It's always sad when places like this disappear. It meant so much to so many people."

Tony Hayhurst also stopped on Church Street to remember a place he visited regularly as a teenager.

The ex-soldier watched numerous films at the Odeon and also paid a few visits to the nightclub Clouds.

"I used to go to the pictures with my grandma who would then fall asleep while me and my cousins watched the film," he recalled.

"The place has some great memories for me. I can remember watching the original Rocky film there in about 1976.

"And a few of us lads from the Catholic College sneaked out of school one afternoon to go and watch The Exorcist.

"A bit later on I went to Clouds. I recall my dad used to talk about the Top Rank a lot. He loved it.

"It's very sad to see what has become of it. This will have upset an awful lot of people."

Former Miss England Elizabeth Grant says businesses in the area have lost a lot of trade because of the fire.