Last dance for nightclub that once housed Hollywood, Kartouche and Zest in Ipswich as new use beckons

PUBLISHED: 06:00 25 September 2015 | UPDATED: 12:26 28 September 2015

David Ellesmere outside the former Hollywood Club in Ipswich.

David Ellesmere outside the former Hollywood Club in Ipswich.

Sarah Lucy brown

The most controversial nightclub building in Ipswich has a new owner – but its days as a music venue are likely to be over for good.

Nightclub had chequered history

The former maltings building was converted into what was then an ultra-modern nightclub, Hollywood, in the mid-1980s and began a 20-year period when it was at the heart of the town’s social life – and controversy.

The modern nightclub, just a short walk from the town’s railway station, attracted visitors from a wide area.

As well as Ipswich, people came from Norwich, Essex, Cambridge, London, and further afield.

Current Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere first heard about it from a friend at university: “I was studying in Brighton and I told a friend I was coming to Ipswich for possible work and he told me that Hollywood was one of his favourite nightclubs, he came here regularly from the south coast.”

However as well as perfectly legitimate clubbers from across southern England, the venue also attracted the attention of some London gangs and the reputation of the club suffered – despite determined attempts by club managers to prevent illegal activity.

During the 1990s the venue was given a makeover and its name was changed to Kartouche – but its clientele remained essentially the same and it did manage to attract a number of well-known DJs and personal appearances from celebrities of the day.

In 2003 it had another change of identity to Zest – but again retained the same character. It was a venue that the police were paying increasing attention to, although the management did take increasingly tough measures to ensure that it remained crime-free.

Its closure as a nightclub came very suddenly in the end.

During the early hours of Saturday, December 9 2006 24-year-old Londoner Jimoh Plunkett was shot and killed during a major disturbance at the club where there were 800 revellers, mainly young men from London.

Although Mr Plunkett was not associated with any gangs, police were worried that the club had become a magnet for London gangs and obtained a temporary closure notice. The club never reopened.

In 2011 it was converted into the Malthouse live music venue which operated with few problems – but it closed at the end of February this year.

It is set to be goodbye for ever to dancing at the old Hollywood, Kartouche and Zest building on Princes Street – with a future as offices beckoning.

The borough has bought the old R&W Paul Maltings building for £400,000. And its long-term future is likely to be as part of the town’s business community.

For 20 years from the mid-1980s the building was the home of the town’s best-known nightclubs. The lower ground floor was Trader Jacks’ bar.

Zest was closed following the murder of Jimoh Plunkett in December 2006. It re-opened briefly as the Malthouse live music venue four years ago, but it has been quiet again in recent years.

Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere said the opportunity to buy the building emerged very recently, and the borough needed to make a quick decision.

He said the Victorian building, which is Grade II listed, was in basically good condition although there were a few repairs that needed to be carried out to the roof.

Mr Ellesmere said no final use for it had yet been determined – but felt it could be attractive to businesses looking for a landmark building in the perfect location in the town.

He said: “There are many companies who would welcome the opportunity to have a slightly quirky office like this, especially technology companies.

“It’s location is perfect – next to the railway station and with some parking as part of the site.”

Although the windows had been boarded with shutters when it was used as a nightclub, these could be opened up to create a light, attractive open-plan office.

Princes Street has become the town’s main business area with new buildings planned and the refurbishment of the former Fison’s headquarters currently under way.

The news of the deal was welcomed by Ipswich Central, whose chief executive Paul Clement said: “It is an important and prominent building in the town’s business district and I welcome the fact that the borough has bought it and is looking for a new use for it.”

The borough has already cleared some of the undergrowth around the site and started planning the repairs to the roof – and with its offices just around the corner will be very nearby to ensure it is secure while it looks for a new use for the site.

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