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TRCH July

The 1998 Club is a Brand New VIP Venue Beneath Southbank City

8 July 21 words: Adam Pickering
photos: Tom Morley

This underground setting is purpose built to offer a comfortable and enjoyable hospitality experience. We chat to Director Tom Holodynksy of Great Northern Group, the minds behind The 1998 Club, about the exciting new venue...

It’s been a tough year with lockdowns and the pandemic. How’s that been for you?
It has been incredibly hard, obviously from a business point of view but what a lot of people, who aren’t in the industry, don’t realise is the effect it has had on those who work within it from a mental health point of view. When you’re used to working fifty to sixty hours per week, unsociable hours until late at night and back first thing in the morning, and you’ve been doing that your whole life, for all of that to just stop out of nowhere and to have to be confined to your home 24/7 is a massive culture shock! The first thing we did was get involved with charity work by providing meals for the vulnerable and key frontline workers, then we shifted our focus on to the 1998 Club project - it was something that had been on the back burner for years and lockdown 1.0 provided a great chance to get the ball rolling.

What’s the connection to the original Southbank Bar?
The original bar on Trent Bridge opened in 1998; I am proud to say that I have been working within the brand since 2000, so more or less the whole time. People of a certain age will remember that the original Southbank Bar used to have hundreds of items of memorabilia up and down all the walls. When we moved into live music and becoming a night spot around 2002, we had a refurbishment and made the decision to take a lot of the artwork down. This wasn’t popular with everyone at the time, but it did see a massive upturn in trade for us back then. However, we have kept all those framed pictures, photos and pieces of art in storage all this time and 19 years later, many of them have found there way back on to the walls in The 1998 Club – not forgetting, of course, the iconic 10M squared signed canvas of Brian Clough planting a smacker on Stuart Pearce’s cheek!

The Southbank on Trent Bridge was always steeped in Nottingham’s sporting history. Is this a key focus of The 1998 Club?
Absolutely. Having a walk around the venue and looking up and down the walls is like a trip down memory lane for Nottingham sports fans. Nottingham Forest, Notts County and Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club are all represented, but it doesn’t stop with just Nottingham – iconic moments from international football, cricket, boxing, F1 and golf can all be found on the walls, as well as some iconic shots of this beautiful city of ours from local photographer Tracey Whitefoot.

You’re already showing all the sport upstairs. How will The 1998 Club be different to your current offering?
Upstairs offers a truly immersive and atmospheric sports bar experience, you can’t turn your head without seeing a screen including the 180” rear view projector with unrivalled AV set up plus great drinks brands, service and an extensive casual dining menu. While all of that is awesome - it’s what the venue is famous for - we’ve wanted to show sport in a different way for a while and that’s where downstairs comes in: an ultra premium and VIP experience; comfortable booths with lots of space; table service as standard. All the usual AV you would expect from Southbank - but a perfect venue for enjoying sport in a more relaxed setting or entertaining clients in a special way. All major sporting events come with food as standard, our chefs are truly remarkable and offer so much more than your standard sports bar menu. For instance, you and your friends can enjoy a whole side of salmon topped with pan fried prawns or our most popular sharer, a gigantic tomahawk steak which you carve at the table with several sides and accompaniments.

What sort of events are you looking forward to? And are they likely to get booked up far in advance?
The response for England’s games in the Euros so far has been fantastic. It has filled us with confidence that this leap of faith has been justified - there is a demand for a premium experience and we’ve nailed it. We’re especially looking forward to the Lions rugby matches too. We’ve always got behind big time rugby in the past and the crowd that comes in to enjoy those tests are exactly the kind of clientele that The 1998 Club has been created for – those who want to watch big time sport in a superior setting without mitigating on the quality of the experience. We have already sold over half our allocation for the Lions and we haven’t really started shouting about it yet.

What are you getting up to there besides sport?
The 1998 Club is the perfect size for private parties, a meeting space, training days and seminars. It's fully air conditioned with, obviously, lots of screens for presentations etc – we’re looking forward to exploring these markets once a relaxation of restrictions allows us to do so.

We saw recently that you've sponsored Leigh Wood, one of UK's up and coming boxers from Notts...
Yes, we love to give back to the city. We’re very proud to have recently become sponsors of British & Commonwealth Featherweight Champion, elite boxer and Nottingham’s very own Leigh Wood. This is the latest in our proud history of supporting and backing Nottingham sport from grassroots to professional and we’re excited to see where this relationship can take both us as a brand and Leigh as a sportsman. We urge all from Nottingham to get behind him, follow him on social media and let's get him his dream world title shot at the City Ground!

Is there anything else you’d like to shout about?
We’d like to thank the great people of Nottingham who have supported us so far in this project and indeed over the past 23 years as a brand. We are truly proud to be a Nottingham independent and believe we can offer above and beyond what a lot of the national chains can. Taking a risk like this wasn’t an easy decision to make given the torrid time our industry has had over the past 15 months, where we’ve been shut with no income stream more often than being open, but thanks to the support of the good people of Nottingham it has already begun to show that it was a risk worth taking.

More information on The 1998 Club can be found on the Southbank website. 

southbankcity.co.uk

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