Tuesday, 25 February 2014
My Story. Part 4.
IT ALL KICKS OFF AT CLUB ELIZABETH
Now that my father refused to put up the money to build my club I needed to look elsewhere. I’d already named the discotheque Club Elizabeth but all I had was an empty basement, then I remembered a builder who was a family friend. I called him and explained my dilemma; he suggested I call his young nephew Ronnie Noble who was also a builder. So I called Ronnie and we agreed to meet up. All I needed to do now was to persuade him to build the club on credit. We met up and I told him my ideas and the way I wanted Cub Elizabeth to look; the dance area should be made up of a series of caves each alcove should house seating and tables and the restaurant in dark red with black furniture. Ronnie seemed excited with the whole concept and began to explained the process and difficulty of building the caves, they needed to be first set out in wood and chicken wire and then moulded with hard setting plaster. The dance floor needed to be professionally sprung and lighting etc needed to be imported. The kitchen would need commercial catering equipment including ovens, griddles, bain maries, fridges washing machines etc etc. Then of course there was the disco equipment. WOW! All this sounded very expensive and for someone with no funds somewhat impossible, that is until a light came on and I suggested we pay Ronnie off monthly, that I lease the kitchen equipment and put the furniture on an account in a Dublin store. Amazingly Ronnie agreed, the leasing on the equipment and furniture turned out relatively easy and by May 1969 Club Elizabeth’s was ready to open.
Photo shows Liz on the left and Barbara Willoughby, Liz’s sister, with me as we pretend to paint a prehistoric drawing on the cave walls for the press
The opening was spectacular and very glitzy affair thanks to my partner Liz and my parent’s wealthy friends. It was by any standards a spectacular launch party which saw the who’s who of Dublin society turning out in all their refinery. The press and magazines loved it. Club Elizabeth quickly established its self as THE place to be and be seen, it became the toast of Dublin’s society where the rich and famous began to hang out.
But all was far from perfect, there was one very important downside, the wine license only allowed serving up until 11pm and with a meal 11.30pm! Crazy as it seems now, that was the licensing laws back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in Ireland, which
I had amazing staff back then and I’m sure many of you who are reading this remember Paddy Warren as my manager, Pat Clark as manageress, The wonderful Patrick Kelly as head chef (Patrick was killed tragically in a motor car accident) Mrs Peckingham in prep, Inez headed up the bar staff and the extraordinary Ephraim as DJ. There weren’t many blacks working in Dublin at the time but Ephraim was one of the few and a brilliant and popular personality and DJ he was.
Unbelievably, this photograph is the only photo I have of Club Elizabeth. It was taken at the bar and shows myself with manager Paddy Warren and Pat Clark who are behind the bar and I think one of the Stylistics who were visiting Dublin as part of their world tour. I'm hoping someone who is reading this might have some more and would let me have copies?
As I said before my name was now regularly appearing in the gossip columns. A book about Ireland during this period called On Our Knees came out (Photo. Front Cover) by Rosita Sweetman. Each chapter was dedicated to famous Irish people of the time including, Desmond Guinness ( the Guinness family) Sean Mac Stíofáin , the then leader of the Provisional IRA, Charles Haughey and many more high profile Irish people. The entire first chapter was dedicating to Maurice Boland, yes me!
Wendy was continuing a very successful career in the modelling world with many front covers under her belt and was making regularly visited London and Paris to appear on the catwalk shows. (photo. Wendy at a modeling session)
After the first 12 months I had bought out Liz and now owned 100% of the Club. Wendy and I were christened Irelands golden couple by the press. Life couldn’t have been better. Then disaster struck, the Irish banks went on strike! At first I didn’t see the warnings; in fact the club seemed to get busier during the strike. A builder called Tom Hynes asked me if I could cash his cheques so he could pay his staff and seeing 80% of my business was cash then and Tom was one of my best customers I naively agreed. Unbelievable to think about it now but the strike last 6 months!!! Another business man and a friend of Hynes asked me also to cash his cheques so he too could pay his staff and again he was a good client and I readably agreed. Ss the strike deepened I was receiving less and less cash and more and more cheques. I’m sure a lot of you reading this story can see what I couldn’t see; the writing was on the wall!!! The strike which started in May 1970 finally ended November and I was delighted to proudly walk into my bank, The Ulster Bank, Lower Baggot Street, with a sack full of money, thousands of pounds, mostly in cheques to make a large deposit. Norman Murray, my dear long suffering bank manager, looked pleased but also concerned, “What’s up Norman?” I enquired, thinking he should be delighted with all this money. “Are you sure these cheques will cash?” he asked. “Of course they will, they are from some of my best and trusted customers”. I’m sure you all know what happened next??? Within a week Norman called to deliver the disastrous news, ALL but a few of the cheques bounced!!!! At first, although shocked, I felt confident that it was a mistake and Hynes would immediately reimburse me. This never happened, he and his friend both went bankrupt as did many Irish businesses at the time and left me as good as broke. I was eventually forced to sell 50% of the club to one of Dublin’s biggest cattle dealers, Frank Conway who saved the day or I would have gone under!
LETS BUY A HOTEL
Club Elizabeth continued to be Dublin’s favourite club for the rich and famous and at the time I was the undisputed king of clubs. I had many influential customers, one of them was Stanley Harris from London who became a regular at the club. One day he approached me with the idea of us both going into business together. He wasn’t sure of the type of business only that he would like to be a partner with me. He explained that his brother Fred a highly successful business man, could easily arrange considerable finance if the project was appealing to him. I took on board all he told me and pushed to the back of my mind until something suitable came along. I had in fact almost forgotten about the idea until one evening I was driving down Morhampton Road on my way into the club, when a green neon light of the Tamo Shanti Hotel and bar caught my eye. It was three 4 story terraced houses joined together, it reminded me of a boutique hotel called The Mountcalm that I stayed in, in London and always thought this style of hotel would work well in Dublin. The next day I took myself off to see if I could find out more about the Tamo Shanti. I pulled up outside and asked a workman up a ladder if he knew who the owner was. “It’s me” He replied. He introduced himself as Paddy Cosgrave from a well known family of Dundrum butchers. I got straight to the point and asked him if he would sell? “If the moneys right I’d sell me granny!” he replied “So How much would you take?” I asked and without hesitation he replied “ 100,000 would it” ( in today’s money it’s around one and half million) He obviously just bought it, the bar and hotel were in a very run down state and it look like he was doing the repairs and painting himself. I loved and felt this was to be my NEXT BIG THING!
The price and purchase of the hotel was agreed and we took possession relatively quickly. The Harris’s employed top architects to firstly redesign the bar area and foyer so we could get it opened relatively quickly. I had come up originally with the name Sax Hotel which was approved by all. The designs were outstanding which included the bar area modelled on the old Irish pubs theme built using the finest mahogany, brass and mirrors and snugs place at intervals along the horseshoe shaped bar, it truly looked incredible. It was shortly before the opening that I in my wisdom had a change of heart and wanted to change the spelling of the name from Sax to Sachs, don’t ask me why but I did, I felt Sachs sounded classier and I remember as a kid my parents telling me about a German millionaire playboy called Günter Sachs who hung out in San Tropez after he married Bridget Bardot. Adding his name sounded very rich and glamorise exactly how I wanted the hotel to be viewed. Annoyingly all the signage, including printed headed paper, invoices, ashtrays, book matches, business cards etc had to be changed. Fred Harris wasn’t too happy but again thankfully he went along with the change.
By 1972 Sachs hotel (See Photo above) was opened and again the who’s who of Dublin society turned up for the opening party. The hotel was only about 10 minutes away from Club Elizabeth so by the closing time at Sachs the crowds would head off to spent the rest of the night at the club. It was a perfect set up.
By this time Lesson street had its second club, it was opened by Louis Murray, called the Pheasantry and although I wasn’t happy to have competition it really didn’t do any harm to the continued success of Elizabeth’s. Over time Louis and myself became friends and recognising the success of the much larger and younger cliental discotheques now opening in Dublin, especially Zhivago’s in Baggot lane ,we decided it was time to join forces and also open a large cub to attract Dublin’s younger set.
By this time Wendy and I were married and our first child was on his way. We had bought a stunning home on two acres in the Dublin Mountains. All on the face of it looked perfect. Then disaster struck for a second time.
To be continued ......