The legendary venue was reduced to rubble earlier this year
An ‘”epic” Lancashire nightclub that has now been reduced to rubble was “packed to the rafters every night” in the nineties and noughties.
Lancs Live recently took a look back at Tokyo Jo’s on Church Street in Preston, which opened in August 1990 after owners spent a whopping 1m doing it up. Nicknamed “Tokes,” it is still remembered for its sticky carpet, drink offers, long queues and popular student nights.
The venue itself opened in 1928 as the New Victoria Cinema and in its lifetime was also Top Rank, Easy Street and Clouds. But as Tokyo Jo’s, it saw big names come through its doors, from a young Take That performing on ITV’s The Hitman and Her to Gabrielle, N-Trance Jason Donovan and more.
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But after years of success, Tokyo Jo’s closed in 2006. The venue did re-open with a number of different names including Lava and Ignite and Evoque, but a huge fire in May this year resulted in significant damage and nothing could be done to save the iconic building.
A number of Lancs Live readers have since shared their fond memories of the lost nightclub. Martin Peel said: “One of the best around where I lived.”
Charles Wilding commented: “What a club I remember going there many times.” Tracey Wilson posted: “Saw Gabrielle there back on the 90’s, cost 50p to get in.”
David Hudson posted: “Epic club packed to the rafters every night.” Christopher Thompson wrote: “Had some amazing nights in that place.”
Stuart Barnes said: “Great times.” Stephen David Abbott commented: “Some nights we had here.”
DJ Dave Redding, 59, started working at Tokyo Jo’s the year it opened and said one word to describe the club’s atmosphere is “unreal.” He told Lancs Live: “It was immense, 2850 capacity.
“I was part of the management team as well as DJing three nights a week. We had a great team and we turned the whole place around and it went from being a mediocre but nice club into an actual superclub.
“Wednesday night was student night – full. Thursday night we started an RnB night – full. Friday night was a commercial dance night – full. Saturday we called it “the ultimate party’” and they would be queueing past Yates’s at a ridiculous time, 10.30pm and in those days it was 10pm till 2am in nightclubs. It was about party party party and that’s exactly what it was. Every night had a different theme but people enjoyed themselves.”
Over the years, Dave said many famous faces came through Tokyo Jo’s doors, including one hit ITV show. He said: “Hitman and Her were there in the very early days when it started.
“Tokyo Jo’s was one of the first to have the show there. When we launched the RnB night, we had this track that I’d been playing for a coupe of months – it was Dreams by Gabrielle and it was a bootleg. We said I wonder if we could get her to launch our RnB night.
“For £85 she travelled on the train from London and came and sang Dreams and the rest is history. She was number one a couple of weeks later.”
At Tokyo Jo’s, Dave said it had an “atmosphere that you lived on because it was phenomenal.” He said: “I loved the team that work there.
“It was just a phenomenal team, the entertainment team were phenomenal, the dancers were brilliant, the management were brilliant and the staff. Everything about the place was fantastic and it never dropped of it just continued.”
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Dave Jones, 62, was promotions manager and DJ at Tokyo Jo’s. He started at the club in 1993 and replaced Dave Redding, working four nights a week and five days a week in management.
Dave said one of the things he loved the most about the venue was the design. He told Lancs Live: “It was a unique design on the different floors, the different levels and I think the lighting rig and the sound system was fantastic as well.
“There was a lot of Japanese drawings and Japanese lanterns. The wooden dancefloor was quite big and the DJ console was down on the dancefloor.
“We he had an amazing lighting rig in the club and it was known for that, plus the music of the time as well. It was a commercial nightclub, not like your Cream’s or anything like that, but it had a party atmosphere to it.”
Dave said people would come from Preston and beyond to spend a night at the club and there were always queues outside. He said: “People came in the 90s to have a good time, dance and listen to the music.
“When I started there I was fairly upfront with my music. I’d come up from London and I was bringing in a lot of tunes to the people of Preston and elsewhere – but people would come from Manchester Liverpool, people would come from all over.
“There were always themed nights, probably every other week we had a theme night. Especially for students, fancy dress and the Halloween and all the rest of it. We used to work really closely with the student union so we had an idea of what to out on for them.”
Dave said there was a “great team” behind Tokyo Jo’s and that everyone got on, often having a drink and curry together at the end of a busy night. He also remembers well known regulars.
Dave said: “A regular member was Freddy Flintoff and Carl Fogarty he was in quite a lot. There was a venue down the road from Tokyo’s Jo’s that used to quite have a lot of well-known cabaret artists, a place called French Bistro and when they finished there if they were staying there they’d come and visit the club. We had all sorts of people.”
Brian Hudson 49, started behind the bar, a year after the club opened in August 1990. Originally working at another venue across the road, he first entered the superclub to ask for change and was immediately “wowed” by what he saw.
He told Lancs Live: “It was a unique venue. Every major town and city had a major nightclub and for Preston it was Tokyo Jo’s.
“There was a lot of people and we used to get coaches coming from all over the North, not just the North West, to come to Tokyo Jo’s. Church Street was like a coach park at a weekend.
“There would be queues and queues. It was a sight to be seen – it was epic.”
Brian said many will remember the different themed nights that took place there weekly. He said: “Tuesday there was a 70s and 80s night and Wednesday was the ultimate student night – the biggest student night in the North West.
“Anything went, from Take That to Prodigy to The Smiths to Nirvana. There was a wide eclectic range of tunes played. Every night without a fail people would queue.”
Special guests Brian remembered included N-Trance, Steve Wright and the afternoon Posse, Jason Donovan, Peter Andre and PJ and Duncan. There were also drink offers loved by customers, from pound drinks to 50p a pint and more.
Brian said: “The free till you pee, that was a class idea. I remember the manager at the time saying to us all are you mad, we can’t do that.
“It could last 30 seconds or it could have last an hour and a half. It was a sight to see. One night it was going on and on and on and we actually ran running water sounds over the sound system to get people to go the toilet – and it worked.”
He said: “Everybody talks about a certain decade and I was fortunate enough to be in the 90s to see that. I just don’t know what it was with Tokyo Jo’s, I really can’t put my finger on it but it was just a pleasure and such a buzz to be there in its heyday.
“Being part of something unique was the big buzz for me. Everyone was like a family and I know it sounds cliché, but we were.”
Tokyo Jo’s closed in 2006, but did re-open with a number of different names including Lava and Ignite and Evoque. In 2019, before the pandemic, almost 2,000 people went to two Tokyo Jo’s Reunion events at the original venue and Brian said he was “blown-away” by the sell-out events.
But in May this year, a blaze broke out in the Odeon cinema and Evoque nightclub on Church Street. Police, paramedics and 12 fire crews were called after huge plumes of smoke began pouring from the building.
As firefighters bravely battled the blaze the building began to collapse leaving city officials with no choice but to knock down what remained of the building. But while the venue has now been turned to rubble, the legacy of Tokyo Jo’s lives on.
- 05:40, 28 SEP 2022
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