The Cresta Theatre Club, adjoining the Cresta Ice Rink in Hobs Moat Road, Solihull opened for business at 8pm on Wednesday 16th November 1966, having been granted a six-month licence by Solihull Council on 20th October 1966. The licence allowed for opening from 7pm-11.45pm on weekdays, and 7pm-10.30pm on Sundays. The General Manager was Enrique Campos.
The company – Cresta Theatre Club Ltd – had tried to obtain a licence in April 1966 but the application was rejected following concerns from residents over noise and traffic. There were also claims that existing noise from the ice rink had rendered several nearby homes unsaleable.
The club was billed as the “Midlands Largest Theatre Club” and the opening night star cabaret included:
- Lorne Lesley – “the singer with the fabulous personality”
- Rod King, musical comedian
- Benny Britain
- Cy Pagus and the Poodle Boys
- Ray and Jackie, specialty dancers
- Vic Templar
- The four Cresta Girls
- Keith Miller and his famous trio
Newspaper advertisements noted that the cabaret would start at 8.30pm and that the floor would be available for dancing after the show. A gift of a box of Cadbury’s Milk Tray chocolates would be given to all ladies and there would be waiter service plus a limited number of reservations for the 18/6 Steak Bar Dinner.
The photograph at the top of this page shows singer Eartha Kitt (1927-2008) appearing at the Cresta Theatre Club, where she performed for eight days from Sunday 18th April 1971.
On 29th July 1971 The Stage reported that the Cresta Theatre Club had closed down for two weeks for “a completely new face lift, which includes remodelled frontage, sound system, mechanised stage, drapes, carpeting, indeed – the lot. In all the cost will be somewhere in the region of £10,000.”
The Club, by now owned by brewers Watney Mann Ltd, reopened in August 1971 as The New Cresta Cabaret Restaurant, seating up to 700, and under the management of Bernie Burgess. Bernie Burgess was a member of successful television and recording vocal quarter the Four Jones Boys and had married popular Irish singer, Ruby Murray, in 1957. Ruby Murray topped the bill at the New Cresta on its opening night in August 1971.
In 1972, Watney Mann Ltd merged with Grand Metropolitan Hotels to form the Grand Metropolitan Group. By 1977, when it celebrated its first decade of business with a Gala Night on 4th May, the New Cresta Club was part of Falcon Enterprises, owned by the Grand Metropolitan Group.
The Gala Night starred Sacha Distel and was a sell-out but The Stage of 31st March 1977 reported that cabaret had been reduced to four nights per week (Wednesday-Saturday) in some of the summer months, and that the facilities had been adapted to accommodate a wide range of activities including boxing, darts, and a heat of the National Dairy Queen contest.
An article in the Birmingham Daily Post, 18th March 1978 noted:
The atmosphere is entirely relaxing, the decor tastefully muted and the lighting is soft. It is not intended to be a sophisticated expensive night spot for business executives with their escort girls. Nor is it a place into which you stagger after the pubs close. It is a place to go for a pleasant night out in an atmosphere of warmth and intimacy, where you might see entertainers such as Tom O’Connor, Pan’s People, the Grumbleweeds, Gerry and the Pacemakers, or new talent with a future such as the Birmingham singer Johnnie Carroll.
Bernie Burgess resigned as General Manager in 1974 and, via his company Applause Unlimited, became the sole booking agent for the venue until live cabaret declined in the early 1980s. He was succeeded as General Manager by Ian Reid (1974-1975), Tony Wilkinson (1976-1981) and Piers Wicker (1981-1982). By 1982, when Robyn Eames took over as General Manager, the new Cresta Club was owned by Arden Taverns.
In 1980, the club won the Club Mirror Cabaret Club of the Year, having been runner-up the previous year. It increased its turnover by 34 per cent up on that of 1978 and also raised £50,000 for charity.
The New Cresta Cabaret Restaurant had a £40,000 facelift during its annual closure in the summer of 1980, including a new look for the front entrance, improvements to the air conditioning and cloakrooms, and an extension to the gift shop. Despite the economic recession, General Manager Tony Wilkinson said that advance bookings were promising.
We don’t seem to have a record in the archives at the Core Library indicating when the New Cresta Club closed but 1982 seems to be the final year of The Stage reporting details of performances at the club.
A planning application to turn the venue into a private member snooker hall was approved by Solihull Council in November 1984 and the premises subsequently became Riley’s.
If you have any further information about the club, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
© Solihull Council, 2020
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