Tuesday, 13 May 2014 14:42

Abbeydale Picture House venues to close

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Abbeydale Picture House. Picture: Gregory Deryckère / Wikipedia Abbeydale Picture House. Picture: Gregory Deryckère / Wikipedia

Sports and music venue closure on Abbeydale Road will end 94-year history.

The snooker club and bar at one of Sheffield’s most recognisable buildings will close its doors this month.

Current occupiers of Abbey Snooker and Bar Abbey at the Abbeydale Picture House building will leave the premises after their lease wasn’t renewed.

“We were working with the landlord on a new lease,” said manager Andy Rushworth, “we had his word that he would give us first option, but we didn’t see that.

"All of a sudden he rocked up out of the blue and gave us our notice.”

Abbey Snooker sign at Abbeydale Picture House

The snooker club hosted its final game on Saturday with the bar next door set to close this weekend.

“We’ll have the last Honey Bee Blues Club hosted at the bar on Friday and then its Bar Abbey’s swan song, the very last night, on Saturday,” Andy tells us.

“Rather than it be a miserable night, we want our last night to be a celebration of all the good that has taken place here over the years,” states the venue on Facebook, “We have two bands performing live and a surprise or two. And we have to drink the bar dry!”

Bar Abbey had recently been re-establishing itself as one of Sheffield’s best small live venues, hosting a number of sold-out gigs in its underground space, which has been described as “the Cavern Club of Sheffield.”

The bar, with its unique ‘Speakeasy’ mural along one wall, also hosted Sheffield’s longest running Northern Soul night, ‘KGB’, for over 15 years.

Among its many uses over the years Bar Abbey has become a stalwart of the Punk and Ska scenes in the city, hosted comedy nights and even operated as an alternative church venue.

Sheffield band Kartica filmed the video for their single ‘Hard to find’ at Bar Abbey, returning to the venue last month for a sold-out show which will feature in an upcoming documentary and concert film.

Guitarist Joe Troughton told We Love Sheffield: “Bar Abbey was one of our favourite venues with a proper music atmosphere.”

He added: “You could feel ‘Sheffield’ and the years of music and performances that had taken place there.

“Its a sad day when such a great venue closes and is taken away from us in the city.”

Closure of the snooker club has shocked a number of patrons.

“We’ve had some customers who have been coming in for 30 years,” says Andy. “A lot of older customers would regularly come in the daytime for a cup of tea and to play snooker together.”

A billiard room has been in operation at the venue since the picture house originally opened in 1920, expanding into a larger snooker club and bar when the former ballroom was renovated in 1991.

Snooker tables at Abbey Snooker under Abbeydale Picture House

The building itself was launched as Abbeydale Picture House by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield in December 1920 with a 1,560 seat auditorium upstairs and the ballroom and billiard room spaces downstairs.

Locals dubbed it the ‘Picture Palace’ due to its grand furnishings, mosaic floor, glass canopy and marble pillars.

The cinema operated until July 1975 and the spaces were later used as an office furniture showroom until the building was given Grade II listing in 1989, when plans came to light to open up the snooker club facilities.

Awarding its listing status, English Heritage described the building as a “good example of an early 1920s mid-sized suburban cinema with both cinema and theatre facilities.”

The ‘Friends of Abbeydale Picture House’ were formed in 2003, to try and renovate the theatre as a community centre, particularly in the fields of performing arts and visual media.

However, despite lots of hard work and a number of amateur dramatics performances, the group went into receivership and the building was put up for auction in 2012.

Abbey Snooker and Bar Abbey remained open as a going concern.

New tenants will now take over the space being vacated by the snooker club and bar, to be renovated into a new venue that doesn’t include snooker.

“I’ve met the new people coming in,” says Andy, “they are from one of the city centre bars.

“They are fantastic people. I and all the team just wish them all the best because it is a wonderful building.”

As for Andy and his teams own plans, he says: “We are looking for another venue where we can hopefully continue the popular live music events.”

The rest of the former picture house, including the main auditorium, remains vacant. Phil Robins who operates The Edge climbing wall in Sheffield, bought the building at auction for £150,000 in 2012.

Indications have been that the upstairs former cinema spaces will be renovated into an indoor climbing and sports centre, but little work has taken place since the purchase.

“Personally I think it would be a shame if it becomes a climbing centre,” says Andy, “It would be so great for the Nether Edge and Abbeydale area if it was restored back to a theatre and concert venue.”

Building owner Phil Robins told BBC Radio Sheffield that “plans are progressing regarding the relaunch of the venue.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 15:51

I am me. Sheffield born, bred and proud. A Sheffield Wednesday fan, web person and marketing guy. I have a huge and varied musical tastes. Watch TV and Films like most others, so I am pretty much... errr... 'normal'. Whatever that means.

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