Nightlife in Chichester: The battle to bring more life into the city

Sheiks Nightclub is the closest nightclub for Chichester residents despite being almost seven miles away
Sheiks Nightclub is the closest nightclub for Chichester residents despite being almost seven miles away

From a hopeful planning application to requested extended opening hours, the demand for more nightlife in Chichester is becoming more apparent.

As well as being home to a 12th-century cathedral, a Roman palace and being surrounded by acres of countryside, Chichester also welcomes more than 5,000 students to its university each and every year, including the Bognor Regis based campus.

Despite the student numbers, according to the Chichester District Council Analysis Census 2011, Chichester has a higher per centage of people aged 45 to 90 in comparison to the national average.

The Observer reached out to the public and gave residents of all ages a chance to voice their views about the city’s nightlife through social media and received a large range of views (see the results of our web polls below).

One resident, Dawn Shrives, 51, said: “I think we certainly need more ‘music venues’ in Chichester, not necessarily nightclubs but music and dancing for all ages.

“The youngsters need nightlife but there is also a need for the older generation who are child free with disposable income and looking for a night out other than a pub or a meal.”

Woodies Brasserie & Bar staff, Josh Larsen and Jonny Doyle are thrilled to now open an extra 30 minutes until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays

Woodies Brasserie & Bar staff, Josh Larsen and Jonny Doyle are thrilled to now open an extra 30 minutes until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays

The closing of Thursdays, a nightclub which was based almost three miles from Chichester in Oving, caused uproar within the community and since the closure in June 2015, some entrepreneurs have made it their mission to improve nightlife in not only Chichester but surrounding areas.

Although the initial reaction of the nightclub shutting seemed mostly negative, one business which certainly saw an increase of visitors from all over West Sussex was Sheiks Nightclub based on Bognor seafront.

Over the years the club has introduced a wide variety of events, celebrity guests and partnerships to the 1,500 capacity venue, which includes a large outside terrace space with bars and DJ booths, the main dance floor, a party room downstairs and Legends Bar, which is open from day to night.

One partnership which owner, Jordan Ayers, felt was particularly important, especially when Thursdays closed, was the agreement the club has with Stagecoach to run buses to and from different stops in Chichester, allowing people to extend their night out until the early hours.

Jordan said: “As Thursdays closed we started to get a lot of people complaining about taxi fares so we decided to team up with Stagecoach.

“The bus service is massive and with us being the only late-night venue open locally, those who are out for meals or a drink in Chichester and surrounding areas can continue their night out and travel to us and then home again for only £2.”

Whilst the team at Sheiks continues working on future ideas to bring more nightlife in the Bognor Regis area, two entrepreneurs have recently made it public that they wish to open their very own late night entertainment venue in Chichester.

The team behind Mass Events, Kieran Stanley and Dominic Hawkins recently submitted and decided to then withdraw a planning application to open a 3,500-capacity music and dining venue in Terminus Road, Chichester.

Kieran said: “For the moment we have withdrawn the application so we can look at all of the objections with what we are doing so we can go back, fix it, re-submit and see what happens then.

“Hopefully we can get somewhere and we can try and get some business going back into Chichester for our family and the whole community as well.

“At the moment the only thing happening in Chichester is businesses closing.

“We will not only be offering entertainment for all but we would also be creating jobs and apprenticeships and most of all bringing economy to Chichester and I think that is really important.”

Business partner, Dominic Hawkins, feels that being 21 years old himself, he wants to be the voice for other young people and make the venue a reality.

Dominic added: “We are hoping that the council already realises that they need to make a change within the city due to the amount of businesses closing already and it is in their five-year plan to open an entertainment venue within the city walls for residents of all ages.”

The optimistic duo have received a combination of both positive and negative feedback with their plans but they are not willing to go down without a fight.

Dominic added: “When we re-submit the location will be different as we could not hold onto the old Feather and Black building for too long and we are worried that if we do not get this through soon that there will not be buildings left suitable for a venue like this.”

The majority of objection letters the council received regarding Kieran and Dominic’s application were from local residents and one from the Reflection Owners and Residents Association (RORA), with the same concerns in mind that the venue would cause noise and disturbance for those residents who live close to Terminus Road.

When district councillor Martyn Bell was approached for comment on if he thinks there is enough nightlife in Chichester, he said: “I think it is vital for the city to have more thriving entertainment between the hours of 5pm and 7pm but that should be provided by local restaurants and pubs, putting a nightclub in Chichester would simply be a recipe for anti-social behaviour.

“We councillors are constantly in touch with young people and as we already have both The Vestry and The Foundry staying open until 2.30am and Woodies now until the early hours, I simply do not see a demand for a nightclub.

“The pubs and restaurants that already exist provide late-night entertainment in a safe and controlled environment and by opening a nightclub in Chichester there would just be more anti-social behaviour.”

Martyn reflected on the issues with the existing late-night venues in the city and added: “Just looking at some of the incidents that have happened in South Street, where both the City Angels and police have been needed, the police are already over stretched.”

Not only has the lack of nightlife within the city been discussed locally but also nationally.

A recent report carried out by the BBC revealed the best places to live in the UK for people aged under 26 and Chichester scored zero for the ‘going out’ sector.

The question now remains, will nightlife in Chichester ever please all?