4. Velvet Rooms
Brief history? In 1993 Nicky Holloway, one of the original Ibiza summer of love DJ/promoters, opened new venture Velvet Underground when the lease ran out on his infamous Milk Bar round the corner. The idea was always to replicate the intimate basement vibe, and to fill it with global DJ line-ups. The club was a key central London option throughout the rest of the 90s, changing its name to Velvet Rooms along the way and winning over legions of fans at its weekly rotation of specialist nights.
Famous For? Fabio’s seminal proto-drum & bass night Swerve on Wednesdays, big US house music visitors on Saturdays and Carl Cox’s long-running techno Thursday night Ultimate B.A.S.E, all of which were ‘one-in-one-out’ by 11pm in an era when presale tickets were unheard of, you just had to get there early. In the case of Carl Cox’s parties, that often meant departing early from the techno warm-up run by the Eukatech and Tag record shops, across Soho in the basement of the Sun & 13 Cantons pub. Big midweek nights, ruined Fridays.
What was it like? The velvet theme and cosy dancefloor provided a welcome change from the vast spaces elsewhere in London. You wouldn’t call it luxurious (especially the toilets), but it felt swanky anyway, providing a rare mix of proper West End clubbing with guaranteed credible music, any night of the week. FWD>>, the night credited as the birthplace of Dubstep, started out here in 2001. Can’t really argue with that.
Why did it close? As with so many central London sites, developers eventually got their hands on the whole building, of which the club was in one basement. The whole block was completely flattened and rebuilt, with a generic Superdrug now occupying the street-level space.
What’s happening there today? Not only have the Velvet Rooms been replaced with a bland chemist, but many more of the area’s music venues have been flattened by the recent Crossrail development. From the slightly dodgy space over the road that changed name many times before ultimately becoming a table dancing joint, to the Astoria (and LA2 sister venue), which although more famous for rock gigs, were also the scene of some important events in rave history, including Nicky Holloway’s infamous Trip and Sin nights, which saw bug-eyed clubbers stopping traffic by dancing in the road and fountains outside Centrepoint.