Monday, October 16, 2006

REVIEW: Oceana, Leeds

Almost one year ago Oceana - Leeds’s latest ‘superclub’ opened it’s doors to the public, three thirty somethings decided to pay a visit on Saturday night to see how the club was faring eleven months on. We arrived early and found both the queuing system working effectively and the door staff in friendly and welcoming mode. The entry price is free before 10pm, then £7.00 before midnight and £8.00 after, which is an increase of £3.00 (60%) on what it was when the club first opened – first hand evidence of a pricing strategy that was designed to get people in and hooked, (and maybe the competition closed down) before the prices were raised to reflect true market value i.e. what people are prepared to pay. Incidentally speaking about competition, the owners of Oceana – Luminar Leisure, also own Leeds other ‘superclub’ – Majestyk, which has recently suffered from decreasing attendances and is to be closed down and turned into the City’s largest casino, evidence enough that either Leeds is only big enough to support one huge club of this scale, or that Luminar are looking to gain a stranglehold of Leeds’s entertainment industry.

We moved into the club to the cloak room to find that the prices there had also increased from £1.00 to £1.50, although the service was still excellent – and most importantly fast. One thing that hit all of us upon entering the cloak area was the smell, one can only guess what it was, but it was reminiscent of sweaty feet and unfortunately this is something that lingered around the entire club and was only masked at peak busy time (midnight onwards) by equally unpleasant cigarette smoke. The most likely culprit for the smell was probably one years worth of drinks spilled onto the carpeted floor – which begs the question, is this type of carpet the right surfacing for a nightclub?

Oceana has lots of rooms with differing themes, from the grand ball room, to the Aspen Ski Lodge, Eighties Disco and the Parisian Boudoir. The idea being, that if you don’t like the ambience of one room, that there are plenty of others to choose from. By providing a number of different rooms, Oceana also attracts a good mix of clientele and not just 18 to 30 year olds. The busiest room before midnight by far was the Eighties Disco – which unfortunately was reminiscent of ‘Jumping Jacks’ (Majestyk’s low-brow sister club) with a majority twenty and thirty something audience that were inebriated enough to dance enthusiastically to ‘Uptown Girl’ on the flashing dance floor.

The Aspen Ski Lodge remains airy and a good place to chill – unfortunately the outdoor balconies were closed due to the cool outside near-Aspen temperatures, but there were plenty of tables and chairs free. The Parisian Boudoir which boasts four poster bed style seating was made more effective by the presence of a hen party in Moulin Rouge style outfits, but one disappointment was that the Hudson Suite and other ‘quiet’ rooms were closed and locked – why – who knows, but one may speculate that certain unwanted activities may have been taking place behind these closed and secluded doors.

Two things that Oceana has plenty of are bars and toilets. We never had to queue at any of these all night. Bar service was fast and polite, a pint of premium lager was just shy of £3.00, which is slightly dear, but at least it had not gone up from what was being charged last year. All of the toilets had attendants, I for one do not believe that they are necessary, and may in fact contribute to poorer standards of hygiene through people not washing their hands for fear of being ‘hijacked’ by the person offering towels and perfumes in one hand, and the ‘tip plate’ in the other.

Oceana is quite disabled friendly in design, with wide corridors, gently sloping floors and lifts, and it was encouraging to see several clubbers in wheel chairs, however I did not see any lowered drinks bars for wheel chair users.

The Grand Ballroom opened at approximately 11:30 – and filled very quickly afterwards. Disappointingly it did not seem quite as grand as it did a year ago, a dancing balcony had been removed, and the giant mirror ball didn’t twinkle. The table and chair area adjacent to the dance floor has now been replaced with a stage, which four dancers performed on – but only for a short while. Two other balconies had dancing girls on them performing for longer. The sound system and DJ area is accessible and still looks cutting edge. The range of music remains impressive, with a good mix including, hip hop, R&B, commercial house and club classics. The dance floor was completely packed from midnight until we left at 1:30am. The DJ would have continued to play music until 3am.

Overall Oceana remains a decent venue, whilst its initial glitz and glam has lost some of its lustre, the club still offers a good mix of ambiences, with something that should suit the tastes of most late night visitors. The staff are friendly and offer a professional welcoming service, however the night wasn’t ‘cheap’ but then again neither were the facilities – it’s just a pity about that smell.

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