As the Fiesta shut Josephine's opened - what was the secret of their success?

1970s, 1980s, 1990s, Alan Kilby, Dave Allen, Josephines, Penny Farthing -

As the Fiesta shut Josephine's opened - what was the secret of their success?

Inside Josephines

The likes of Penny Farthing and the Fiesta thought they’d got the monopoly on nightclub glitz in 1970s Sheffield.

And lets face it, they’d both had some good years in the first half of the decade.

But by 1976 there was an ill-wind blowing across the city’s entertainment sector. The Fiesta had gone bust following the aftermath of a much publicised strike by staff; punk was rearing its ugly head and the region’s heavy industry was on its way to recession.

It was set to be a tough few years for many of the area’s most bullet proof after dark venues.

But despite the ominous backdrop, one nightclub opened in the midst of the turmoil and re-wrote the rule book as far as upmarket nightclub entertainment was concerned.

Sheffield-based entrepreneur Dave Allen opened Josephine’s in 1976.

Whilst some venues started to question strict dresscodes with the rise of punk, he upped the ante and it was marching orders for anyone that wasn’t dressed up to the nines.

Josephine’s offered haute cuisine in its silver service restaurant and installed a white grand piano. The club offered air conditioning, brought in ice machines and the champagne corks popped from day one.

Josephines adDave Allen said: “I wanted to open a place that people would dress up to come in. The Penny Farthing was the club of the day but you didn’t get ice in your drinks. There was no air conditioning and it was all hot and sweaty.

“I think it was well known that if you were going to Josephines you had to get dressed up as if you were going to a wedding.

“I used to say that anyone who was anyone used to come into Josephine’s.  Anyone that used to play The Fiesta [they did re-open under new ownership before shutting for the very last time in 1980] or Sheffield City Hall all came into us afterwards: Johnny Mathis, Tommy Cooper, Ronnie Corbett, Ronnie Barker – you name them and they were there.

“If you wanted to book to get into the restaurant you’d have to book three or four weeks in advance. It was the best restaurant in town bar none. 

You didn’t dress down at Josephine’s – dress codes were there to be stuck to and gents with long hair were sent packing. Sheffield wrestling star Alan Kilby was a regular doorman.

Inside Josphines in 1977

Peter McNerney remembers: “You knew you’d made it in Sheffield when you acquired a Josephine’s Gold Card. It was a passport to glitz and glamour. Well, more of passport to the front of the queue. And an invitation to those VIP Josie’s birthday nights with the big buffet and the prawn mountain.

“Today’s young people... they don’t know what they missed.”


x