The 49 Club (later the Top Deck)

20 Christmas Steps, central Bristol, BS1.  c.1977 – c. 1996/7.

A small upstairs bar on the east side at the bottom of Christmas Steps, just behind the well-known fish and chip shop at the corner of Narrow Lewin’s Mead.

It began as the 49 Club and operated over two or three floors of the building, and was run by Wilf, formerly of the Ship Inn at Lower Park Row. Later the top floor re-opened as the Top Deck Club. There was a narrow staircase leading up to a small bar with bench seating, and at the back a record deck near a tiny square of parquet, known optimistically as the dance floor. More than six people trying to dance at once was inviting injury or death.

I went here for the first time around the end of 1982 with Gaysoc. Unusually for those days it was up a flight of stairs.  It was bigger than Chantelle’s but much scruffier . I remember seeing cockroaches in there the first time I went and that the carpet was sticky. However it was the one place you could take your heterosexual workmates/friends.   (Jane)

  16 Responses to “49 Club (Top Deck)”

  1. I liked the 49, it was the only place I could take my female friends. I have got some smoke filled pictures of the inside of this place, taken on my mates 18th. It shows the now retro “Copper beaten” tables. The stairs could be a nightmare when you had, had a few …

    • The ’49’ just got a mention on BBC Radio London, gone but not forgotten ! The till at the top of the stairs, that sticky carpet… the illuminated duck in the window… the tiniest of dance floors, I remember being up against ‘Chinese Pete’ in a disco dance off in around 1982. Michael would make the occasional appearance with his little dog ! Happy Days !

      • Remember the club so well…the d.j. alice and always really tacky frag queens! the good ol days!

        • Tony Costello is a name I believe I know from the Bristol of the 70’s. I used to be Manager of Kings Club then latterly Club 49.
          Just been browsing on the web and came across this site albeit the posting is a while ago. If you remember and want to drop me a line would like to hear from you. Been living in Thailand for the last 16 years and still in the gay bar business.

  2. Remember it well..Chinese Pete..Alice on the decks! Great times.

  3. The 49 was an alternative night out to the Oasis, or you might pop down there from the Oasis if you just fancied a change of scenery. The famous drag act Mrs Shufflewick performed there one night. In the early days upstairs the dance floor might be curtained off (perhaps this was on Sunday nights) with two heavy curtains, theatrical-like, and there were cosy double-seater settees in the bar area. I always liked that – I think I had only seen three-seaters before.
    Later, as you say, it became an upstairs bar only and was run latterly by Mike. Steve, aka Firefly Platform, was DJ once a week, and one of the last records played was the Beatles’ recently-released Free As a Bird, which puts closure at about 1996. It closed because they ran up rent arrears of at least £20,000. The owners, the city council, held off from foreclosure, maybe because it was gay club but I think because they simply didn’t have a tight hold on finances. In the end they had no option but to send in the bailiffs. Mike went to live in Bath and died not too long ago.

    • To clarify the chronology: what had been The 49 Steps Restaurant became The 49 Club in the mid-1970s (run I think by Tony and JoJo), operating on two floors. When it changed hands in the late 1970s and used the upper floor only it became The Top Deck Club but was still known as “The 49”, and by 1988 was officially listed as Club 49.

  4. Wasnt this place originally owned by “jojo” who also owned the joke shop on christ6mas steps ? I say that because I was employed there when it opened as one of the “Bunny boys” ( oh the embarassment ) 🙂 I worked at Kings club too. In 1977 I was 18 and virtually lived in the clubs. 🙂

    • Hi Ray..I think I knew you..did you live on Cheltenham road at one time?

    • Hi Ray seemed to have lost you on fb.. I’ve finally found the photos of John Haynes.. hope all well..x

    • I too was a bunny boy, I remember you and John Haynes (screamimg John) I worked there from the opening with JOJO and Tony, I tended to work in the alcove bar on the ground floor. Good times, I have tried to get in touch with people from then on facebook but have not had much luck.

  5. I remember with fond memories the 49 club on Christmas steps. The dreaded stairs to the club’s door, and having to be extra careful on the way out. I knew Mike the manager and l am sad to hear of his passing. Great times of staying late, and walking out to daylight. R.I.P. Mike & the much missed 49 club.

  6. I worked behind the bar for several years, my boyfriend used to DJ. We were responsible for the repaint of the dance floor and the big ’49’ rope light lol.

  7. i used to work for yellow cabs this was 87/88 going up the stairs having a quick half of beer was mike running the club at that time was he of small build

  8. I remember the stairs; the bus drivers coming in for a quick drink; the dance floor and I swear there was a stripper there one night. Moved to Bristol from London in the late 1970’s. Worked at The Dug Out. Would get into Oasis on a regular basis. Remember the doormen not being very nice to me but I couldn’t give a toss!

  9. I’m good friends with JoJo who now lives in Weymouth, Dorset. He’s 90 and he owned it and the joke shop in the Early 1970’s. Nice chap, though a little frail these days.

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