Frank’s nightclub building in Cliftonville to be returned to 1960s glory for new restaurant plan

The former Frank's nightclub is going to get an overhaul

The former Frank’s nightclub building in Cliftonville will be returned to its 1960s glory after Thanet council granted permission to convert the site to a restaurant, offices and a three-bed self-contained flat.

The one-time clubbing nightspot in Ethelbert Crescent, which is split over two levels, had been on the rental market for  £50,000 a year since July 2016 but  no suitable tenant was found.

Photo Frank Leppard

The club, previously run by the Thorley empire before closing in 2009 and being sold, was once a popular spot with two for one offers, ladies nights and under 18s events.

Photo Frank Leppard

It is part of the Cliftonville Leisure Complex, which also contains Bugsys Bowling, Cains Amusements, Olympia Cafe, and 12 existing 2-bedroom flats known as Cliftonville Court. The rest of the site is active, with the existing commercial units well-used, and the flats inhabited.

Photo Frank Leppard

The planning application is for a ground floor restaurant, first floor offices and the flat on the first floor which will be accessed from the existing stair-core of Cliftonville Court.

Photo Frank Leppard

Back to the 60s

The application also seeks permission for amendments to the external elevations, to open up and enliven the currently blank facade, and re-create the original 1960s elevations as closely as possible.

The plan is to reinstate the original 1960s design, with some alterations, featuring the corner balcony and pop-out bay.

The bowling alley once had a much larger frontage onto Ethelbert Crescent, extending all the way to the pop-out bay window. At ground floor, this part of the facade contained a large fixed glazed area, with a distinctive concrete cross to the side of the bowling alley entrance.

The renovation will mimic the glazing and cross motif as well as adding new doors.

The original 1960s entrance, underneath the pop-out bay window, will be reinstated as the main entrance to the ground floor restaurant and there are plans for a projecting canopy and terrace area fronting Ethelbert Crescent.

In planning documents prepared by ADD/UK Ltd Architects it says: “ The 1960s building was a bold and radical design, and had much architectural merit, which has sadly been weakened and lost over the years.

“The corner where Franks is now located had the most architectural interest, with the recessed corner balcony, the dramatic pop out bay window, and large expanses of glass. The current Franks frontages are almost unrecognisable from the original 1960s design, though looking at the pattern of boarding up, one can see that much of the original structure is still in place behind.

“The proposals seek to reinstate the original facades as closely as possible, thereby revealing the hidden merits of the 1960s design. Where there are changes proposed to the original 1960s facade, the design has been carefully considered to ensure that it is complementary and coherent with the architect’s original design intentions.”

A rich history

,The 1960s building was built on the site of the grand Cliftonville Hotel. The main hotel building was six storeys, including a basement storey and an attic storey. The area behind the hotel, sandwiched between Dalby Square and Edgar Road, was used as gardens. At the front, facing the sea, a grand covered terrace spilled out onto the street.

The hotel had enjoyed great success from its opening in 1868 up until the 1920s.

In 1929, it was no longer as popular and the council considered buying it for municipal offices. The hotel’s popularity diminished further during the Depression and the building was requisitioned during the Second World War.

At the end of the war the hotel reopened but to little success. It was sold to a new owner and turned into flats, though it was still not profitable.

All change after fire

After a fire in 1952, the building was demolished and the site used as a car park until 1961.

In November 1961 plans were announced plans for an eight-storey building on the site, including a new hotel, 40 flats, a cafe, filling station, car park and bowling alley. What was actually built and opened in 1964 was more modest than the early plans, with 12 flats. The bowling alley, Franks pub/nightclub, car park and filling station were also built.

The filling station became a cafe and amusement arcade in the 1980s and the nightclub closed in 2008/09 and now stands empty. The bowling alley is still running though has changed hands several times, and reduced in size from 24 lanes to 12 lanes.

Work has already started on the site.

Read here: Some Thanet clubs, pubs and places – gone but not forgotten