Hotel and restaurant vision for old Morecambe theatre

Photo Neil Cross: Ian Bond on the roof of the Alhambra building, home of The Carleton.
Photo Neil Cross: Ian Bond on the roof of the Alhambra building, home of The Carleton.

One year ago The Carleton’s ‘Final Farewell’ pulled 1,300 nostalgic ravers to the Morecambe nightclub.

It was meant to be exactly what it said on the tin, the final event at the iconic West End venue.

How the Alhambra Theatre looked in its heyday.

How the Alhambra Theatre looked in its heyday.

At the time owner Ian Bond planned to convert the nightclub and much of its home – the 116-year-old Alhambra building – into flats.

But Ian now has a new vision for the Alhambra.

“I’ve been listening to people and the passion they have for this building,” he said.

“I’d feel like I was letting Morecambe down if I didn’t at least give it a go as a venue again.”

Ian inside the upper floors of the Alhambra building which he hopes to convert into a restaurant and boutique hotel.

Ian inside the upper floors of the Alhambra building which he hopes to convert into a restaurant and boutique hotel.

So The Carleton didn’t shut for good after that ‘last chance to dance’ and instead has stayed open for bookings.

Now weddings, parties, boxing and wrestling nights, and live music are all on the agenda for 2017 as Ian tries to revive the glory nights at The Carleton..

“It’s out of my comfort zone, I’ve never run a venue before,” he said.

“But we could have something special here.”

Boxing bags used by Skerton Amateur Boxing Club inside The Carleton, which is open for bookings.

Boxing bags used by Skerton Amateur Boxing Club inside The Carleton, which is open for bookings.

Ian’s background is in property development.

An accountant by trade whose father also worked in construction, he has been in property since his 20s.

He worked in South Africa and the USA, then settled in Morecambe, successfully renovating properties in Bare and Heysham before buying the former Battery hotel, rescuing it from almost certain demolition. A renovation of the Battery has been going on for three years, longer than Ian anticipated.

His aim is to create 17 swish apartments, some with views across the Bay, remaining faithful to the 19th century Battery’s original architecture.

Photo David Hurst: The sold-out 'Final Farewell' dance night at The Carleton in January 2016 pulled in 1,300 ravers.

Photo David Hurst: The sold-out 'Final Farewell' dance night at The Carleton in January 2016 pulled in 1,300 ravers.

“I’m taking my time, trying to do quality job of it,” he 
said.

“Four flats are complete with tenants in. But it will be two more years until it’s all done.

“We’ve put nearly 10 tonnes of steel in so far for the roof conversion.”

Ian bought the Alhambra in 2015.

In its heyday the Alhambra was a theatre, most famously as a setting for the 1960 Sir Laurence Olivier film The Entertainer.

But after a fire ravaged the building in 1970, the cavernous upper floors of the building are now in dire need of some TLC.

Ian’s wish is to convert these dark and derelict spaces into a restaurant and boutique hotel.

He says it will cost half a million pounds but he has been inspired by the successful million pound revamp of the Morecambe Hotel and hopes to carry out the work in stages.

The first phase of renovations are expected to begin inside the lounge area of the Carleton itself.

“I want to open an entrance up onto Regent Road again, maybe have a games room and refurbish the bar,” he said.

“My worry is, with it being at this end of Morecambe, will it work?

“I’ve got to pay the rates and it’s hard if the building is
empty. So I would love to get more events in.”

Skerton amateur boxing club has been using the Carleton for its training sessions.

A ska and northern soul night is booked for February, as is a ‘white collar’ boxing show.

Alpha Omega Wrestling have also moved their programme of pro wrestling nights from the Winter Gardens into The Carleton for 2017, with their next show due on February 11.

And Morecambe ‘steampunk’ group The League of Splendid will hold an event at the club in June, which Ian says will be The Carleton’s “event of the year”.

“When you put an event on in The Carleton, the place comes alive,” said Ian.

“I’ve fallen in love with this building. I’ve got to give this place the chance it deserves.”