Legendary Blackpool nightclub owner Basil Newby has bought back his beloved Funny Girls – and has insisted: “Baz is back!”
The 67-year-old said he is ‘delighted’ to be back in charge at the popular venue just months after losing it to Thwaites Brewery.
As well as the Dickson Road showbar, Basil has also bought back the Flamingo nightclub and the Buzz bar, both in Queen Street, for an undisclosed sum.
It means he once again heads up the entertainment empire he founded nearly 40 years ago, and said: “I am absolutely thrilled to announce the good news that ‘Baz is Back’ and exciting times are ahead for Funny Girls.
“For the last year I have been recuperating with my health and taking some much needed time out and away from the business.
“I needed some personal and quality ‘Baz Time’ to recharge my batteries and get myself right again.
“The opportunity came up to purchase the Odeon building and Funny Girls from Thwaites and I felt I wanted Funny Girls back and was ready for a new challenge.
“Thwaites have been amazing and together we agreed that it was in both our best interests and so a new era begins.”
Basil, who was awarded an MBE for services to business and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgency community in the 2014 New Year Honours List, said he is ready for a fresh start following his “rollercoaster journey” with his health and businesses, and declared: “It’s a new era for us all, so onwards and upwards.”
He added: “I always loved the Odeon building with its history and heritage in Blackpool and, together with the legendary Funny Girls show, I feel the time is right to revitalise the venue and share the feelgood factor.”
Since news of the buy broke yesterday, Basil has received hundreds of messages from well-wishers, and he thanked people for their support.
He said: “Thank you to all the Funny Girls Creative team and stars of the show, and the love and support from our loyal local fans and customers from all over the UK has been inspirational.
“There will be lots of celebrations, surprises and sensational events planned and I am delighted to share the joy with all of Blackpool today.”
The sale of the clubs in Dickson Road and Queen Street was announced by Thwaites, which bought them in January after the business went into administration.
In a series of posts on social media, Basil said: “Well after a nice ten months getting myself de-stressed I’m back with a vengeance. Funny Girls Baz is back. Now the fun starts. Onwards and upwards.
A short video also announced ‘Basil Newby’s Funny Girls’.
Thwaites said it will be keeping the Flying Handbag pub, also in Queen Street, which Basil also once owned.
Director of pubs and brewing Andrew Buchanan said: “It has been a pleasure to work with the teams at Funny Girls and Flamingos.
“Their passion and expertise is second to none, which is why the show continues to attract such big audiences after 25 years.
“We wish them every success in the future. We look forward to developing the Flying Handbag business as that fantastic venue remains with Thwaites.”
Basil said he will host a series of special celebrations and events at Funny Girls in the near future – with exclusive offers for Gazette readers.
Funny Girls has been a star attraction in Blackpool for more than 20 years, with its flamboyant mix of drag queens, music, and sharp comedy.
The concept burst on to resort’s nightlife scene back in July 1994 in its original venue at the Promenade end of Queen Street.
In its first few years, it expanded across a number of shops in the street and helped make the area a nightlife hotspot before it moved into the former Odeon Cinema venue – its current home – in Dickson Road.
The move fulfilled a long-held dream of entrepreneur Basil, and the opening night saw screen diva Joan Collins as guest of honour.
The club went from strength to strength with its host Betty “Legs” Diamond helping Blackpool embrace the fledging gay scene with open arms.
However, the business was later dogged by tax troubles stemming from the compulsory purchase of Flamingos as part of the Talbot Gateway project.
It resulted in a bill of around £800,000, an issue which reappeared last year when the taxman was set to take the company to court.
After the business went into administration in September, it emerged that £308,214 was owed to Blackpool Council – a sum that was written off by town hall chiefs.
The collapse also left a debt of £723,007 owed to the taxman, as well as £2,410 to Blackpool’s Pubwatch scheme and £8,300 to Blackpool Business Improvement District.
They were among a raft of creditors bills left unpaid. Administrators KPMG said “unsecured claims” totalled £1.4m, with funds highly unlikely to be raised to repay them.
A report said the business had suffered in recent years due to “changing market conditions in Blackpool town centre” which had led to fewer visitors. This, it added, “was compounded by a licence suspension at Flamingos that also hit the overall turnover”.
Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said at the time: “Unfortunately it is a fact of life for local authorities and businesses that when their debtors go out of business or pass away money simply cannot be collected.
“We do not want to write off debt and our specialist team actively pursue debtors using rigorous recovery procedures. However in cases such as these we are left with no other option.”