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Ballare nightclub may close for for two years as new hotel built at Lion Yard in Cambridge

One of Cambridge’s busiest nightclubs, Ballare, could be shutting for two years, councillors heard, as plans to move it to a new underground location get the go ahead.

A vision of how Lion Yard will look (7645949)
A vision of how Lion Yard will look (7645949)

Ballare nightclub, in Lion Yard, Cambridge, is one of Cambridge’s most popular nightspots. But it could have to shut while a new 125-room hotel is built in its place in the upper floors of the Lion Yard building.

Ballare say it is still “early days” and it will continue to operate as normal until the closure. The club says it will also be pushing for work to be completed more quickly than the two years anticipated by the council.

On Wednesday (March 6), Cambridge City Council’s planning committee agreed a major new facelift for the Lion Yard shopping centre which will include a new food and drink quarter near St Andrew’s Church, and a new hotel, providing accommodation for 288 guests in the city centre.

The hotel will take up space currently occupied by Ballare. The nightclub is set to be moved from its current location above shops in the shopping centre, to a new purpose-built basement club area underneath Lion Yard. The plans feature two separate dancefloors, and “state-of-the-art” noise insulation.

Council planning officer Mairead O’Sullivan said the current owners of the club had had difficulty “retrofitting” the space, which had previously been offices, as a club. She said the new underground location would be better suited to use as a nightclub.

“The new location has better access,” said Ms O’Sullivan. “At the moment, disabled users can’t access the club at the same point. The proposal has two separate dancefloors, allowing better variety of music. It also allows state-of-the-art equipment to be installed to prevent noise leakage.”

The club is one of the most popular night spots in Cambridge. According to a recent leisure update study, it accounts for about 35 per cent of club capacity in the entire city.

Despite this, the committee heard the club may have to close for at least two years while the work to build the new hotel took place.

The Lion Yard plans (7645947)
The Lion Yard plans (7645947)

A report from Ms O’Sullivan, which went before the committee, reads: “Whilst the works are taking place for the hotel use, construction vehicles and materials will be kept in the basement and will utilise the area which will later be occupied by the nightclub.

“As a result the hotel use will need to be completed before any meaningful work can begin on the nightclub. I understand from the applicant that it will take two years for the nightclub to be completed following the opening of the hotel.”

A spokeswoman from Ballare said the club is in talks with the owners of the building to make sure the club is shut for as brief a period as possible, and said they would continue to operate as normal until work actually begins.

The spokeswoman said: “It’s very much business as usual for Ballare and we look forward to continuing to put on great nights out for the people of Cambridge.

“We are in talks with the landlords to minimise the time that we may be closed, but we’re committed to the city and ultimately excited at the prospect of bringing a new clubbing experience to Cambridge.”

Kevin Blencowe, executive councillor for planning on the city council, expressed concerns about the viability of the space as a club if it had to close for two years.

“I am no expert in club management,” said Cllr Blencowe. “But I fear the economic longevity of this club will be put in doubt.

“I do not see how an operator will have the confidence to take it on after a two year gap. I have serious concerns about that.”

Cllr Blencowe also said he thought the club would have to operate at a reduced rate, losing about a third of its capacity due to space constraints.

Committee chairman Martin Smart said it was not for the committee to comment on the financial viability of businesses, saying their primary concern is the suitability of the design.

The plans were approved by the committee.

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Ballare nightclub to move and 125-room hotel planned

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