Miss Hofbrau competition was seventies’ nirvana
Sheffield’s Penny Farthing was definitely one of the most revered nightclubs of the era. It considered itself a notch above most other places.
Hofbrauhaus next door was a rather different animal.
We weren’t mentioning the war anymore and now everyone wanted to drink German-style.
Eyre Street lapped it up and the people came from miles around for “a really rollicking Bavarian-style night out” and the beer came direct from Germany.
Hofbrauhaus offered its own in-house Oompah band and other drinking-marathon-style entertainment.
There was even a yearly Miss Hofbrau competition.
Orrett Hanson had one of the fastest rises through the ranks in the history of seventies nightlife.
He started as a glass collector just a few weeks after opening in 1973. He was then duly promoted to bouncer, head doorman and ended up as bar manager for the lifetime of the venue and onwards as it became Dingwells in the 1980s.
His love of the place was as strong as any marriage – he even wed one of the regulars, Jacqueline, and they’re still together over three decades on.
The place was a massive success from the day it opened.
Orrett Hanson: “We’d have up to 900 people in there. I used to book the parties in and I’d allocate them to their seats on arrival. We’d have anything up to 100 people in any one party.
“The entertainment was the Oompah band with a DJ in-between. The Oompah band would come on twice a night and everyone would dance on the tables.
“The DJ would play Tamla Motown and disco music whilst the band stuck to German music. The band went down well – it was a real novelty.
“Thursday, Friday and Saturday were our big nights – the rest of the week was steady. Many people would go straight to the Penny Farthing next door afterwards.”
Coaches would arrive from all around the region: parties from Leeds, Bradford and Nottingham would be common. It was part of the Hofbrauhaus chain, with others in Hull, Blackpool and other Stein swilling strongholds.
Orrett’s meeting with his future wife wasn’t quite Mills and Boon – he helped pick her up off the floor of the Hofbrauhaus after she’d had too much to drink apparently – but they’re still going strong and they’ve probably outlasted half the marriages from the era.
Doorman Stuart Smith said they ended up having to ban stag parties as things regularly got out of hand.
He said: “When we got trouble we really got it. If you came with a party of 25 you got in cheaper, but parties regularly fought each other. We ended up stopping stag parties and only allowed mixed parties.”
Hofbrauhaus entertainment wasn’t always based on the picture-postcard feel of the sweeping Bavarian Alps.
Tastes change; by the mid to late seventies the Oompah band had begun to fall out of favour.
Dinner times offered strippers, topless go-go dancers, free booze and sausage and mash for just 27p.
Orrett Hanson: “We weren’t getting the custom and the novelty had worn off a bit. The strippers went on for nearly three years. It was only 5p to get in. It was very popular for the first 18 months. All the firms used to come in their dinner hour.
“We had an incident one dinner time when a guy was watching a stripper and his wife turned up unannounced and threw beer all over him.
“We had another incident where the wife of one of the managers was in the office and she spotted her husband watching the strippers. She played hell with him and proceeded to get on the stage and started stripping herself. I had to go up and drag her off.”
By 1977 the Penny Farthing next door had reinvented itself as the popular Scamps.
Marked by images of sultry looking ladies at the entrance and elaborate Victorian-style mirrors inside (complete with images of yet more ladies – this time in Victorian underwear).
The venue didn’t appeal to John Goodwin of The Star at the time. He gave it a right slating and left no stone unturned in his quest to find problems.
The cloakroom attendant was the first to get it in the neck.
“We arrived in the club early and found the cloakroom attendant unwilling to stay at her station. The disc jockey had to interrupt records to call her over from the buffet bar.”
Then he had a go at the temperature.
“Early in the evening, when few people were in the club, it was uncomfortably cold”.
Sounds as though you shot yourself in the foot John – you shouldn’t have been in such a hurry to hang up your coat.
He had issues with the “obtrusive” bandits, advised people with claustrophobia to stay away because the dance floor got busy and didn’t like the microwaved food, or the lack of starters and desserts.
Oh, and the price of the beer, at 41p a pint, was deemed “a little high”.
A busy dance floor, dodgy microwave comfort food, expensive beer and pictures of girls seemed hallmarks of every successful club in the late seventies.
Kind of makes you wonder what Johnny boy was expecting that night. Thank god he didn’t go for bangers and mash at Hofbrauhaus.
Denise Huntingdon: “Doug and me met at the Penny Farthing. It was brilliant. It was classed as being a bit better.”
“It wasn’t a very big place and they used to have some nights where they had local groups on. They also had student nights. I was training at the dental hospital at the time and used to get in cheap.”
“We’d probably start our night at either Marples or The Claymore. You’d not be able to move in The Claymore normally. We’d sometimes go to The Mulberry Tavern nearby. Then it would be off to the Blue Bell before going to the Dove and Rainbow. The Stonehouse was a definite. Maybe the Three Tuns and The Museum. We’d normally go to The Buccaneer. We might go further up still – maybe The Albert. It was great. All those pubs. If we were late we’d know exactly where to find everyone.
“I can say, hand on heart, that I never saw anyone taking any drugs. People were just happy to have a drink.”
Lynda Butterell: “In the 1970s, before Josephines, Penny Farthing was the place to go. It was the most upmarket. All the footballers used to go. I had my hen party there.”