Tributes pour in to popular ‘King of Clubs’

Kurt Smith with his dog Elvis
Kurt Smith with his dog Elvis
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A COMMUNITY has been left ‘devastated’ after the sudden death of nightclub and pub owner Kurt Smith.

The well-known publican died after he was struck by a train on the West Coast Mainline at the weekend.

The 58-year-old was found near Balshaw Lane, Euxton, shortly before 5pm on Sunday.

Mr Smith, who lived in Charnock Richard, ran the popular Applejax nightclub in Chorley town centre for many years and was also connected with the Rose and Crown pub, on St Thomas’s Road, and the Red Herring in Coppull.

In the 1980s he was landlord of the then Weird Arms which later became the Leigh Arms.

His ‘right hand man’ Peter Verhaege, who has been manager of Applejax for the last 23 years, said he and Mr Smith’s family were “totally devastated.”

Mr Verhaege said: “His family want some privacy at this time to come to terms with it. I last saw him on Saturday evening and the early hours of Sunday morning, when we were working. I was working at Applejax and he was working at the Rose and Crown.

“It was just a normal course of business thing.”

He added: “I’ve been manager of Applejax for 23 years and I’ve known him for 30 years. I used to ride horses with him.”

A spokesman for the British Transport Police said: “We attended an incident along with colleagues from the North West Ambulance Service but sadly a 58-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene.”

The incident is not being treated as suspicious. A file will be prepared for the coroner.

Mr Smith leaves a wife Andrea and daughter Danielle.

Mick Clark, communications manager for the Central Lancashire branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: “CAMRA’s sympathies are with the family.

“We recognise what an important part Kurt has played in the leisure industry in Chorley.

“We are particularly pleased at the way he brought the Rose and Crown back from a keg-only pub into a very popular real ale pub.

“I’ve known Kurt personally since the days of the Weird Arms and although I wasn’t a nightclub-goer, I appreciate the importance of Applejax to the social scene in Chorley.

“He will be badly missed. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Floral tributes have been left on the doorstep of the Rose and Crown which has been closed for two days. A notice on the front door says it will reopen tomorrow.

One of the doorstep tributes read: “Keep them partying all day and night. King of the club. RIP Kurt. Good guy”.

Another said: “Dear Kurt, The life, the heart, the soul of Chorley. You will be sorely missed.”

Dozens of messages were also left on Mr Smith’s Facebook page.

Steve Vincent wrote: “The world is suddenly a little less colourful. Proud to have known you, my friend”.

Paul K wrote: “My best mate, friend and drinking partner. I hope we meet in a future life. RIP.”

Paul and Karen Bradley have just opened Smokies Southern BBQ, next door to the Rose and Crown.

Paul, 53, said: “He came in for a meal on Thursday. Obviously we’re very shocked.”

Karen said: “He came in round about when the football was on at 8.30pm.

“He quite openly offered to help, anything we needed, he said just knock on the door or call in. A lot of customers recognise him because he’s been round here for such a long time.”