September 23 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, August 9, 2014
It’s the former Norwich nightclub where hundreds danced the night away for decades prior to its demise.
Now, a new owner has got his claws into the site best known as the former Samson and Hercules ballroom and nightclub, with the aim of turning it into Norwich’s first lobster restaurant.
Mike Phillips is managing the £120,000 project with the aim of Just Lobsters being open at the Tombland-location on October 1.
Mr Phillips, who ran a similar venture in Norwich’s Timberhill almost two decades ago, said: “We are bringing lobsters to the people. They are perceived as being a luxury food, but they don’t have to be.
“Our lobsters will come from Canada and Maine in the US. I would love to buy local but prices for local lobsters are excessive. The restaurant will also serve shellfish, prawns, and you will be able to get steak, if you don’t like lobsters. We will have about 15 staff.”
He said future plans include turning the basement into a crypt bar, in about a year’s time. He said they planned to open two more similar restaurants in East Anglia in the next few years.
It is thought the current building was built by the Mayor of Norwich, Christopher Jay, in 1657, with the famous statues originally made from timber, but white replicas installed when Samson lost an arm.
The building once housed a large swimming pool. Later on, a dance floor was installed over the top of it and it was transformed into a ballroom in 1939. At that time it became a popular venue with the troops stationed in Norwich. But it was severely damaged by fire in 1944 and was renovated and partly reconstructed in the early 1950s.
Many Norwich couples first met each other there and it was a popular wedding reception venue in the 1940s and 1950s.
Over the years, as the venue went from being a ballroom to the nightclub Ritzy’s and Fifth Avenue, and more recently Ikon.
There were once plans for the statues to be removed, which sparked a public outcry. As a result, they were retained and restored.
The ground floor and basement of the building has been empty for six years, although the upper floors have been turned into four flats.
The old ballroom/nightclub has been split in two with the former dance floor at the back now a car park. As part of the transformation, the front part of the building will be repainted, and the two iconic statues, of Samson and Hercules, are staying.
They will be painted gold while the front of the building gets a beige and grey makeover. Meanwhile, Norwich could be going from a city without any lobster restaurants to one with two.
The former Tea and Little Cakes cafe in Timberhill has a sign on it saying ‘Coming Soon, Love Lobsters’.
Mr Phillips added: “Norwich could be looking at lobster wars.”
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