ONCE Northwich's only nightclub, the Kookaburra was a rite of passage for the town’s millennial generation in the three short years it was open. 

Brainchild of ‘king of clubs’ Paul Keepe, who was also responsible for Warrington’s Showbar, Mississippi Showboat, and Secrets, plans were approved to covert ICI’s former development lab on Winnington Lane into licenced premises in March 2000.

The building itself is still open and thriving as the UK’s largest gay leisure complex, Sauna Sauna.

Keepe spent around £500,000 on the Australian-themed nightspot, which had two separate dance floors, a VIP lounge, and a separate coffee bar, Mr Quigleys, which was open all day.  

Northwich Guardian: Kookaburra members got their own personal photo ID cardsKookaburra members got their own personal photo ID cards (Image: Supplied)

When the Kookaburra opened, it was like a whole new world for a generation of Northwich youngsters used to last orders at 11pm.

Scott Burstow, who was 24 at the time, said the late licence ‘gave it a real buzz’.

He added: “I’d just moved out of my parents and bought my first house. I was single, and at that age, in your prime and before you have kids, you’re out most weekends.

“We’d have a few drinks in town, and when the pubs shut, we’d end up in Kookaburra. The bar was 3am, which was totally unheard of in Northwich then.

“When it first opened, it really felt quite premium. You had to be a member to get in, and you got an ID card with your photograph on.

“There were two sides to it. One was quite smart and felt like a VIP area, while the other side was a bit more like a bar.

“I don’t remember much about the Australian theme, but I suppose it was a bit like a tiki bar. Maybe a bit Hawaiian.

 “It was a great place, but it didn’t feel like it was open for all that long. I think it only lasted a couple of years.

“It appealed because it was on its own. It had its own little market, and it was a little bit out of town.

“Over time, the premium aspect drifted away a bit, and you didn’t really need membership. They just let anyone in."

Becky Edwards, from Winsford, was just 18 when she first visited.

She said: “Oh, I remember the Kookaburra well, having a little dance on that famous dance floor!

“It was such a big deal when it opened as we’d never had anything like that around here before.

“The closest nightclub was Mr Smith’s in Warrington.

“I remember going to a work colleague’s housewarming party in Winnington when I was just 18, and we all went on to Kookaburra. Actually, it’s something I won’t ever forget.

“My friend’s partner, who was 10 years older than me, insisted on waiting with me for my taxi.

“As I was about to get in, he lurched forward and kissed me. I was only 18 – too young even to be in a nightclub. I’ve never been so shocked in all my life.

"It was just so awkward after that.”

The dream was, sadly, short-lived.

Cheshire Police launched court proceedings to close the club in November 2003, after ongoing reports of anti-social behaviour. 

The club was found to be in continuous breach of his licencing conditions by Northwich magistrates, which was causing distress to local residents.

During the hearing, Winnington residents gave their personal accounts of acts of criminal damage, violence, and disorder by youths after they’d allegedly been to the Kookaburra.

Scott added:  “I always assumed the reason it closed was down to trouble, as tends to happen.

“I don’t know whether something like that would work now as things have move on a bit, but it really was a great in its day.”

We are launching a new feature in which our reporters chat to our readers from Mid Cheshire about their memories of all manner of topics. If you would like to be involved, please register your interest with our content editor by emailing matt.simpson@newsquest.co.uk.