A Bodmin nightclub has been saved after being weeks away from the threat of re-development.
The ownership of the Eclipse Nightclub has been taken over by a former head of security for the venue and local businessman, Phil Turner.
It comes after a turbulent three years for the business, which saw former business owners for two decades, Roger and Colette Wilson, forced to sell up after incurring severe losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to the impact on the business during the successor’s management, due to its proximity to a fatal incident which saw the death of Mike Allen, 32, on an adjacent road.
Mr Turner laid bare the situation that was facing the Eclipse prior to him taking over the lease of the building and operating the nightclub. He said: “The books laid bare the situation which had affected the business. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the business was booming, with an average weekend attendance of 450, when it was open on two days.
“When it was reopened immediately after the end of the restrictions, it was averaging 130 people across the two-day weekend, which dropped to 60 after the incident on Castle Canyke Road, that saw Mike (Allen) lose his life. This led to the venue stopping operating on Fridays, but ultimately, an attendance that low is something no business can operate with.”
After becoming aware that there were plans in place to redevelop the venue into properties, Mr Turner said he wanted to give the venue one last chance at being a nightclub, going into a venture he admitted was a large risk for him financially, albeit a labour of love for a place he worked at for several years during the ownership by the Wilsons.
He added that it was very much one last attempt at success for the venue, saying that if he is not able to make it work, it is highly likely that the owner of the building will seek to redevelop the historic building into residential properties.
Determined to make a success of his new venture, Mr Turner was keen to stress that it would not be business-as-usual, with a new identity and investment in facilities within the building among the plans in the short term.
He said: “One thing that people will see if they visit us a few times over the next few weeks is every time they come, there will be something different. While some things, such as the carpet isn’t something we can afford to change immediately, there are many areas we are working on to improve the experience for those who come to see us.
“This includes addressing long-held complaints that people have had which will see a new seating area in the smoking area, new toilets installed, new DJs, a new mix of music which will entice people in, and areas of the nightclub will be gradually refurbished to make things better.”
Among the clean sweep under new management will be a new identity for the business, which while known as the Eclipse since approximately 2001, has had several previous identities prior to that, including stints as the Drum Major and Club Tropicana living long in memories of older residents.
Mr Turner explained it was time to retire the Eclipse name, which he said had “had its day”.
The choice of the new business name will be forming part of a competition that the local community will be invited to take part in, with details of participation set to be confirmed imminently.
While Mr Turner and his newly-installed team plan to include a lot of ‘new’ in their plans for the Eclipse, there will still be the occasional room for the things which once made the venue popular.
This includes advanced plans for the occasional guest return of popular former DJ and owner Roger Wilson, known as ‘DJ Rog’, who since leaving the business has been travelling across Europe in a camper van. Mr Turner said that calls for guest appearances from DJ Rog by residents had been heeded and he was discussing with Mr Wilson what dates these could take place.
In the short term, the venue will continue to open solely on Saturday nights, however, there are plans in the short term to launch ‘Over 30’s nights’ once a month on a Friday, featuring traditional ‘nightclub classics’, which Mr Turner speculated could be the night where DJ Rog makes his occasional appearance.
Amid fears of residents in Bodmin for safety in light of a year which has seen multiple incidents involving knives, Mr Turner was keen to stress that under his management, the Eclipse would be made as safe as practicably possible, with initiatives including the installation of a new, but experienced security team and a more stringent ID regime among the measures planned.
He admitted that the challenge of turning around the nightclub’s fortunes and saving it from the clutches of residential development was huge, saying: “What lies ahead is a massive challenge. I would love for the local community to not only join us on our nights but be part of what we want to do as ultimately it’s their club and I want to involve them.
“I want people to know that in the coming weeks, every week you come there will be something different, something better, but the real heart of the Eclipse as it used to be will still be there. We want to restore the homely feeling of the place.”