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Dundee

When Dundee post office was transformed into ‘superclub’ Circus and London nightclub

reports.
Kate Brown
Did you dance the night away the Circus or London Nightclub back in the early noughties? Image: DC Thomson.
Did you dance the night away the Circus or London Nightclub back in the early noughties? Image: DC Thomson.

It took 130 workers to turn Dundee’s old post office building on Ward Road into the 2,000-capacity Circus ‘superclub’ in 2001.

Dundee’s existing nightspots wondered if they would be blown out of the water.

This after all was being advertised as the superclub to end all clubs.

Or so they thought.

Circus lasted a mere 16 months before being put up for sale.

The name changed to Afterdark in the process and became London Nightclub and Cubic Nightclub under subsequent ownership changes.

Eventually the music stopped for good and the lights went off in 2010.

So what happened?

Take a trip back to the dancefloor

Dean Entertainments took over the B-listed former post office building on the corner of Meadowside and Constitution Road which dated back to the late 1890s.

The Renaissance structure with its detailed columns and cornices in the city centre was easily noticeable and would provide the perfect location for its newest nightclub.

Over 130 workmen were hired to convert the interior of the post office into the Circus Nightclub in October 2001 which would include a 750-capacity bar on the ground floor.

Crowds used to queue round the block when the former post office was a bar and nightclub.
Crowds used to queue round the block when the former post office was a bar and nightclub. Image: DC Thomson.

Dean Entertainments spokesman Roddy Nicoll told revellers what to expect.

He said: “The bar on the ground level, which will be called Bar None, will have capacity for around 750 people, with a mezzanine-level restaurant with around 140 covers.

“Upstairs will be the club, Circus, which we reckon on having a capacity of around 1,800 to 2,000.

“There are also a number of features which are totally unique in nightclubs in this country.

“We will have a VIP area, The Sugar Rooms, which will accommodate around 250 people and will be one of only six authorised Dom Perignon retailers in Scotland.

“In the club, the ladies washrooms are going to make a huge impression; there is a retail unit in there and there will also be a lipstick room that is like a club within the club, with its own DJ and everything.

“On the upper floors of the building there will be the recording, television and radio studios.

“If we have a band or DJ playing, we will be filming it, and it can be beamed onto the 10 big screens in the club or on to the internet.”

Roddy said Circus would be the “one-stop shop” for all your entertainment needs and 26 artists were already rumoured to have been booked to perform at the venue.

He was confident the building would be open the following month.

He said: “The interior of the building has completely changed.

“We have had to form new lift-shafts, stairs, fire escapes and everything else.

“A lot of the old structure has been removed, and a lot of the old steelwork that was in there has been replaced.

“People are going to see an unbelievable difference when the project is completed.”

Opening night was a success

Circus opened on schedule in November.

Huge queues snaked around the street before the city’s revellers flooded inside to soak up the sights and sounds at what was Dundee’s newest nightclub.

After paying their entry fee at the ticket booth and climbing the spiral staircase the clubbers were immediately struck by the state-of-the-art neon lighting.

Small corridors would then lead them into different parts of the club.

The opening act that evening was 1980s icon Belinda Carlisle who performed some of her greatest hits including Heaven Is A Place On Earth and Circle in the Sand.

The dancefloor was packed and Circus became the go-to club for many Dundonians in those opening weeks despite the popularity of the nearby Mardi Gras and Fat Sam’s.

They were also being tempted by the promise of cheap drinks which hit the headlines when a so-called price war broke out between the Circus and the Mardi Gras.

A vodka and mixer went for just 30p in Circus.

Soon the Mardi Gras dropped their prices to 29p as swords were drawn.

Revellers on the roads before and after the club opened became a police concern. Image: DC Thomson.

The price war was heavily criticised by Tayside Council on Alcohol and the charity’s spokeswoman Frankie Claridge said the clubs were encouraging binge drinking.W

She said you could go out and “get as drunk as a skunk for a fiver”.

Business was booming for the Circus which was packed at weekends and during the week buses would bring students from St Andrews to add to the feel-good factor.

Other nightclubs in the area started to submit planning applications to convert their premises into bars because they were unable to compete with the new kid in town.

The club’s popularity wasn’t just causing problems for other businesses.

Tayside Police raised safety concerns in January 2002 over large queues of up to 2,000 people which were forming outside the packed club on a Friday and Saturday night.

Some people were waiting on the road which was blocking traffic and on two occasions the police had to close the road to protect both the clubbers and the motorists.

That – and the cheap drink – had now put the club’s licence at risk.

The Circus management decided it would only offer cheap drinks midweek and introduced stewards to help manage the crowds outside.

The city’s licensing board gave the nightclub a stay of execution.

Circus continued to be packed out at weekends with star names taking to the dancefloor stage including the likes of Dannii Minogue, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Alice Deejay.

British DJ Brandon Block was another big name who appeared at Circus.

At the time, the owners of the Mardi Gras said that they expected the new hype around the club would die down eventually, and people would return to their club.

They were right.

The club was put up for sale

In March 2003, Dean Entertainments announced that Circus would be put up for sale due to what was described as a conflict with their other business interests.

Circus changed its name to Afterdark and was bought over by Glam Leisure Ltd.

Bar None then became known as Yuppies 80’s Bar which opened in September 2004 and became extremely popular at the time with clubbers of a certain vintage.

Partygoers at Yuppies 80s bar., which opened after the closure of Circus nightclub.
The Yuppies 80s bar was hugely popular with partygoers during its glory days. Image: Supplied.

That was helped by a DJ whose collection of weird and wonderful vinyl generally ensured the granting of a steady flow requests from the sublime to the ridiculous.

It wasn’t unusual in Yuppies to go from listening to Careless Whisper from George Michael before hearing Jim Diamond singing the theme song from TV’s Boon.

Fans enjoying the music at the Rocktalk Showcase 2006 in Yuppies bar in Dundee
Fans enjoying the music at the Rocktalk Showcase 2006 in Yuppies bar in Dundee. Image: DC Thomson.

It also became a venue for the annual Dundee Blues Bonanza where the songs being blasted out were more Muddy Waters and BB King than Chesney Hawkes.

Circus nightclub eventually became London.

Despite London winning an award at the Dundee Institute of Architects Design Awards in 2005, its success wasn’t to last.

London Nightclub was extremely popular when it opened under its new name in 2004
London Nightclub was extremely popular when it opened under its new name in 2004. Image: DC Thomson.

London was taken over by Angus William Cruickshank Ltd in 2009.

The club was rebranded and renamed Cubic but its days as a leading venue were numbered and it never saw success like the other nightclubs in the city.

Under the new ownership, Cubic ended up nearly £70,000 in debt.

The building - which once housed the post office and later Circus nightclub - is now up for sale.
The bar and nightclub are now consigned to history with the building up for sale. Image: DC Thomson.

The club was liquidised and the new owners went into receivership after the Royal Bank of Scotland pulled the plug on the property’s mortgage.

Dundee High School purchased the building in 2013 and said it would invest £16 million into the property and develop a Centre for Performing and Visual Arts.

However the plans were abandoned in December 2020 after five years of fundraising.

The building was put up for sale again in November 2022 for offers over £500,000.