Legendary Preston nightclub Tokyo Jo’s finally vanishes from city centre
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Demolition workers have now flattened what was left of the iconic venue, leaving a melancholy hole in a much-loved Church Street facade.
Hopes that the frontage could be saved were dashed after a structural survey revealed the ritzy entrance was unstable and needed to come down.
But the fronts of two neighbouring buildings - the former Odeon cinema and a pair of shops - remain standing as the owners decide what to do with the huge city centre site at the rear, now cleared after the terrible fire back in May. It will become a 116-space temporary car park until a decision is made on its long-term future.
The disappearance of the nightclub has hit thousands of ex-clubbers hard even though Tokyo Jo's closed as far back as 2006. It became Lava and Ignite and then Evoque, but neither could recreate the magic of 'Tokes' during its 16-year stay as Preston's premier nightspot for teenagers of the nineties and early noughties.
It's passing was mourned for years and there were even reunions for former Tokes regulars who just wanted to relive the memories of the student nights or weekends they enjoyed there so much. Prior to that it had been Clouds and, even further back, the Top Rank ballroom. But none quite hit the spot for young people in Preston like Tokyo Jo's.
The entire building opened in 1928 as a cinema, which eventually gave over much of its floorspace to the disco era. Tokyo Jo's was born in 1990 after a £1m refurbishment. It proudly proclaimed itself "The Ultimate Discotheque." A year later a young boy band called Take That performed there in a TV show called Hitman and Her.
The Rigby Group, owners of the Odeon block since 2012, had hoped to demolish the frontages of all three buildings damaged in the blaze. They asked Preston Council for permission to bulldoze the lot, but were told that, at the very least, the 1920s art deco facade of the old cinema, which had remained unoccupied since 1992, should be preserved.
A structural survey found that the big blaze had left the remainder of the site with some structural problems. Building inspectors found the Odeon frontage was in "reasonable" condition, the two shops with nightclub offices above were worthy of being retained, but they said the nightclub facade could not be saved because "it is difficult to justify retaining the structure as it is not stable and would need permanent strengthening."
A council spokesperson said: “The council, together with the owners’ structural engineers, have recently undertaken a structural assessment meeting of the former Tokyo Jo’s entrance atrium. They have provided a structural report deeming the atrium unsafe and a potential danger, so it has now been demolished.
“These works were not part of the planning application considered by the Planning Committee in November. The entrance atrium has been considered separately and its demolition is covered by planning legislation to allow such works in the interest of health and safety.
“However, a temporary frontage to close the current gap between the existing buildings will be installed over the coming weeks allowing the footpath to fully reopen.”