BLACKPOOL Council has made a shock bid to buy the resort’s former Syndicate nightclub.
Town hall chiefs are proposing to demolish the building – the old historic ABC Theatre – and replace it, in the short term, with a car park.
The deal has yet to be finalised, but the council has agreed to pay £635,000 for the venue, which played host to entertainment greats The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Morecambe and Wise before being transformed into a cinema and then into Britain’s biggest ‘superclub’.
The Gazette understands the council will borrow up to £1.3m to fund the scheme, which includes demolition costs.
Town hall bosses today said that would be paid back at a rate of £93,000-a-year over 50 years, which could, in theory, mean the venture ends up costing £4.65m.
However, finance chiefs stressed they expected to pay the loan back sooner using revenue generated by the site, which lies alongside the current Talbot Gateway/Central Business District regeneration project.
They also expect the land will end up being worth much more than the loan value after the area is overhauled.
Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn today said the purchase – which comes after the venue failed to sell at auction earlier this month – was key to the regeneration of the town centre.
He added: “Blackpool Council has agreed to purchase the former Syndicate nightclub building on Church Street.
“At a time when we’re faced with a budget shortfall of £13.6m and (council staff) jobs are at risk, I need to be clear how we’re able to do this.
“We’re prudentially borrowing up to £1.3m which will pay for the purchase of the building and consequent works to the site.
“This is not a spare £1.3m we have and it could not be used to save jobs. We can only borrow money in this way when we have a way of paying it back.
“The building is a prime site in the town centre and next to the Talbot Gateway development.
“While we’re considering the best long term solution for the site it will be used as a car park. We’re hearing traders are concerned about the loss of Seed Street and Swainson Street car parks so this will provide additional spaces right in the heart of the town centre.”
The Syndicate closed in August 2011 after nine years at the centre of the town’s clubbing scene.
In 2005 it lost its licence for a short period due to the number of violent incidents at the venue.
Since it closed, the interior of the premises has become derelict. In a report to councillors, Carl Baker, the council’s assistant chief executive for development, said the premises had been identified as an important strategic site close to the Central Business District being developed at Talbot Gateway, St John’s Square and the existing town centre shopping area. Tory group leader Coun Tony Williams (pictured) said the building was in danger of becoming an eyesore but questioned the sense in using the site as a car park.
He said: “I understand the need for more central parking but just to demolish this and then cover it with Tarmac seems a waste of prime development land.
“The demolition of this building will no doubt cause even more serious congestion. It’s no good having a blacktop car park in the centre of town if you can’t get to it or out of it.”
Traders had mixed views about the purchase.
Simon Wrigley, owner of the No 5 Restaurant on Cedar Square and the Coffee Pot cafe on Birley Street, said: “I would rather see the site developed than be left empty and allowed to fall derelict.
“A car park on the site can only help town centre businesses in the short term. I just hope they can keep disruption to a minimum while they are doing it.”
But Stephen Brennan, owner of Buddiez American Diner on Topping Street, said: “I’d rather see the council develop the existing building, perhaps with an entertainment museum on the ground floor, and rent out the main dance floor to an operator.”
Warwick Tunnicliffe, chairman of the St John’s Traders Association, added: “I see this as being a real plus for the town centre because Blackpool needs another nightclub like it needs a headache.
“On-street parking is so expensive and people are constantly having to clock watch. The knock-on effect of the closure of car parks while the Talbot Gateway is being developed is only going to get worse so this will be very welcome.”
FULL STORY AND REACTION – SEE SATURDAY’S GAZETTE