Oasis Club

The Oasis, 14-16 Park Row, Bristol, BS1 5LJ.  Circa 1973 – December 1991.

Always called ‘The O’, this was Bristol’s major gay club for men until the 1990s.  The Oasis occupied a basement beneath shops in Park Row, with the street entrance a barely noticeable black door with a vinyl canopy above (now the Dojo Lounge). It inherited the slightly Middle Eastern decor and arched openings from its previous incarnation when the Oasis had been a club for architects. Richard Sweet purchased the lease in 1972 and initially continued to run it as a straight club, but in 1973 decided to turn it into a gay club. The doors at the back opened onto a narrow paved yard known as ‘the garden’ overshadowed by Trenchard Street multi-storey car park.

Around the annual Pride week, there would be an afternoon garden party fundraiser, often to support AIDS prevention work and the Aled Richards Trust. Richard consistently supported charities throughout the club’s existence. Like the ‘Moulie’ (Moulin Rouge) the O had its ‘matrons’, two elderly women called Flo and Doris. Otherwise the door policy was ‘men only’ from the start.


I remember the camera in the Oasis and as you walked in to pay Hugh you knew that you were being watched. … Then there was the buzz of entering the club as the Hi Energy music pounded out and the night lay heavy with many possibilities! Utterly thrilling. On Sundays some camp old thing would be playing the grand piano …. tell that to the Lady Gaga generation! There were two elderly ladies who worked behind the bar. One had a voice like gravel in a cement mixer and I think used to say “Right my dearrrr” We used to take her off a bit. I’m sure there was some connections between her and the other lady. I think their children were married to each other? I’m sure there was a rumour that the son was a millionaire.  


I used to like Flo. Being 16 when I went to the Oasis (sorry Hugh – I said I was 21) people used to try and get me drunk on doubles. Flo cottoned on to this pretty quick so used to serve me singles and pocket the difference! Good on her.


Flo was the smaller of the two. Doris lived in a flat on Lodge Street – I used to perm her hair.


Doris died a while back, I think. She was friendly with Gareth of Bar Domino in Benidorm.

Dale Wakefield, founder of Bristol Gay Switchboard:

I can remember the garden party fund raisers for Switchboard, the only time of the year that lesbians were welcome (although I could go myself I rarely did, the straight women who frequented the place were very objectionable to me, not to mention the mysoginists who tended to leave me alone in the O). On one occasion when blue movies were being shown, there were gales of laughter coming out, not a usual sound believe me, so I went to investigate. The projectionist had managed to thread the film back to front and upside down – it was the first gay porn film I found worth watching. Gay Switchboard in those days was almost fully funded by that annual garden party. For the event a chauffeur driven car would arrive at the house and carry mother off in style to collect the money on the door. No one got in to the Garden Party without paying.

I was invited to a cream tea and entertained by the delightful Quentin Crisp (after he) had appeared at the Students Union for a Gay Pride event. He and a few others including myself had been invited back. The tea party was at the flat above the O, I only went there once and can barely remember it, I just remember the Students Union and being in the flat.

  36 Responses to “Oasis Club”

  1. Celebrities would venture into the Oasis from time to time. Danny La Rue, Gorden Kaye and I can think of one other who is not “out” yet…..And rock group Queen turned up after appearing at the Hippodrome in 1977. They were dressed in white and sat quietly at a table in a corner (they still had tables in those days, a hang over from the “straight” years when meals were served). I got Freddie Mercury’s autograph. Much later I walked straight past the singer Limahl, not recognising him without his stage make-up on.
    The club went through a phase of featuring cabaret acts, and I remember Su Pollard appearing in front of a very packed club. Inevitably there was a high entry price for such events.
    The fun at weekends went on until 4am and later. Closing at the official time was anathema to all. Only when Hugh descended with the cry: “Your coats are now downstairs” did we know the game was up.
    We shall not see the like again.

    • Now that he has died I can say that the anonymous celebrity I referred to above was Frank Williams, who played the vicar in Dad’s Army. This was probably when he was in the 1990-91 pantomime Cinderella at the Hippodrome.
      He cut a lonely figure at the bar, sat by himself with head down, and I have often wished I had gone up and said hello. (Perhaps I was concerned he would snap: ‘Oh do be quiet, Mr Yeatman’.)

  2. For the record, Richard’s last night was December 17, 1991.

    • Thanks Mike – your date conincides exactly with what we have just researched! 🙂

      • It did continue under different management for a while after his departure, so your initial information of 1992/3 is probably right.

  3. I remember going there in my late teens, with my friends the 2 Andy’s, who introduced me to it all! One night they disappeared and I was out in the garden area when they appeared climbing up the back slope from the City Centre after going there to get Hot Dogs! I shared a flat with David Alexander one of the later DJs at the club – Good Times! Who remembers owner Richard getting drunk and coming down from his flat in a full Brides outfit! Also Sundays we would have to hide in his flat if the Police came round to see what was going on in the club beyond the licensing times….

  4. I moved to Bristol in summer 1995 and people I met said the Oasis closed the previous year – making it 1994.
    And I was assured I’d missed the best of the gay scene, though the Shilling, Griffin and Just were still exciting for me 🙂

  5. The Oasis club was a magical place to go to. Hugh always used to dress up on a Saturday night, especially as a police man. The small dance floor was always full with the DJ in the corner.
    On a different note, I’m looking for a DJ who used to play at the Oasis and 69 Steps. His name was Ian Morgan from Caldicott. Any info much appreciated.

    • I remember Ian..I had a brief affair with him in the early 80s..nice guy..don’t know what became of him.

  6. On Park Row … was The Oasis, a basement club entered from a solid wooden door next to a shop-front painted in peppermint green (was it a health-food shop?). The only thing that identified there was a drinking establishment was a canopy over the doorway emblazoned ‘Oasis’; and, once one entered, you had to negotiate not only the narrow staircase down to the bar but also the doorman, Hugh. The décor was cheap chic, as I recall, presided over by Richard Sweet – and I mean presided over. This was HIS domain, though he had a supporting cast behind the bar, in particular a jolly elderly lady (Doris? Ethel?), who might even have been his mother! Memories are definitely hazy, but that could easily be attributed to the large quantities of gin and orange (squash not juice) I consumed at the Oasis bar – sometimes till four in the morning!

  7. I used to be a male stripper that work the oasis club , I remember Richard very well , I travelled down on s monday from Tyneside I done the tunnel club in Cardiff and Tuesday I do the oasis club one of my favourite clubs to work the years between 1988 – 1991 great days nice club and Richard sweet

  8. My partner won the Bristol heat of “Mr Gay UK” at the Oasis Club in circa 1983. His name was Ferenc Rupeck & I have one or two photographs of the occasion & would be happy to post them here but am unsure if I can?

    Sadly, Ferenc passed away suddenly on March 6th this year. If by chance anyone has any other photo’s with him they’d be willing to share or even just memories, I would be happy to have them.

  9. I remember Richard and his authority pretence but charming and Hugh with his truncheon (on going back to his flat, what he flipped) but nice too.
    We used to travel from Gloucester most Saturdays as this was a great club in my 20’s. Now I look in my 50’s as coming back to Bristol. Sigh, it’s all gone.

  10. I went from boy to man in that place, so many great memories, we would use the lift in trenchard st car park instead of climbing the hill.. everyone had a nickname in those days and i was checkout cheryl because i worked at asda in patchway haha.. lovely people, fun nights.. and lots of lovely memories.

    • I think I remember you….also from the Princess of Wales. I was with Len at that time!

    • Wonder what happened to lime juice Lil?

      • Re:- ‘lime juice lil’ If you mean Malcolm Daymond [AKA Dracula], who was a carpet salesperson at B Maggs & Co, he died in Feb 1986 in his flat in St Pauls Rd Bristol, in somewhat strange circumstances.

        • Malcom (aka Lime Juice Lil) also worked with someone called Len at the White Hart, just along the road from the Oasis towards the Triangle. I heard that Malcom was murdered. I worked as a bar man with Gareth, Kevin who was bar-manager, Ashley, David Alexander – Saturday night Dj and Steve who was weekdays Dj. Doris never worked there but propped up the bar and occasionally caught the lampshades over the bar on fire – whilst waving her cigarette around in the air. Flo would work the bar, clean the upstairs flat that Richard worked in, and lived at the bottom of St Michael’s Hill. Flo once told me that the reason for her gruff voice was that she had a wart in her throat. She told me she had had it removed but it had just grown back again. Flo could get through half a crate of Mackeson Stout (about 12 +) per night, working behind the bar!
          Richard always organised New Year parties whereby the staff were told they must wear a kilt, commando style. I only did 1 New Year party. I was covered in bruises the next day and recall finding Flo sitting in the sink in the Ladies loo whilst out glass collecting. She was mid-stream and I just left her alone. I understand that she had been lifted on to the sink by a couple of men when she had complained that the lock ups had been “occupied” for a long time!

          I worked the Oasis for almost 2 years before going to higher education. Many, many stories…

  11. Update on Richard Sweet: Richard lived in Cornwall with his partner Alan for a number of years and then moved to Bath. Sadly, Alan died of stomach cancer a few years ago. Richard now runs his home as an upmarket boutique style b&b with his new partner:


  12. Such a fantastic club. Worked behind the bar & an odd bit of DJing in the mid 80s but was also a long-time customer, absolutely loved the place & have great memories. Really great team of staff to work with and am still in touch regularly with some.

  13. Lots of great memories of this place. I lived in the flat above here. Who was Hugh’s sidekick? Funny eyes? I remember how they *might* let a lady in if you were lucky, but we would just go around the back and climb the fence instead if we couldn’t get her in. Unless the sidekick turned up with a baseball bat.

    House music became a real thing during the time I was going and all the camp HiNRG died out as the then DJ just started playing dance music. Not very good dance music, either.

    Particularly good memories of people rushing to that tiny dancefloor if we heard the “boing” of the start of the Nana’s Nathan Jones or the horn stabs at the start of the Vogue 12″.

  14. I fondly remember Richard and the Oasis when I lived in Bristol for 6 mos or so between 1986 and 1987. Met the Village People when they performed at the Hippodrome of course singing YMCA. I’d also met Steve Grant of Tight Fit who sang the Lion Sleeps Tonight. Good times with good people. I was sad to read about the club’s closure.

  15. i remember going to the oasis on tuesdays and saturday nights the whole experiance was fantastic i couldnt wait to get there . i think what made the oasis was the music it was great i think if i remember right the djs name was sam at that time im talking here 1988 to when it finished. the atmosphere was electric had some great times there wish they were back again.

  16. I loved the Oasis and remember Hugh, Doris and Flo well! Went for the first time (and my first gay club) exactly 30 years ago today, nervous and not sure what to expect. Brilliant music and atmosphere, 12 inch versikns of Madonna’s Rescue me and Kylie’s What do I have to do were spun that night and everyone went wild, I knew I’d arrived lol.

  17. Amazing club like no other. My first into to gay life..met my partner of 22 years there. Saw many acts…strippers,singers and more ..danced with Vera Duckworth from Corrie,,saw take that…miquel brown (sinittas mother) sue pollard……great themed parties….ther will never be such a safe and atmospheric place ever again!

  18. Who remembers an older man called Peter who used to do the door on Hugh’s night off (Monday I think). He had a soft spot for me so let me in for free, and I used to go down to the bar to get him a brandy and coke from Flo and Doris, who always moaned he wasn’t entitled to a free drink while providing one “just this once”.

    • I remember Peter. He was very kind to me. He loved Sunday nights in particular and used to sit with his back to the wall down at the end of the bar near to where the kitchen was. He was also very kind to my friend Ian who died very young from AIDS related illness in his mid 20’s. I am not sure about this, but I think Peter used to play the grand piano on a Sunday evening?

  19. Does anyone on here remember a guy called “Lorry driver John”? I think Bristol could do with another Oasis or 39 Steps (I think that was it’s name ) at the bottom of Christmas Steps.

  20. Can anybody remember the guy who murdered his boyfriend and dumped his body in Barry Island

  21. I worked at The Oasis as barman late 70”s – early 80’s, I Worked with Kevin , David, Aled Flo and Doris, all sadly not with us now. Richard (Owner) was a Great Boss and a we all enjoyed working together.Then there was Hugh on the door and Dave doing music.. The 80’s was a time for us LBGTQ to hang on as Fantastic, but also sad memories to the ones we lost. Halloween time was extra special with all the branches of trees decorating the club. Then all of us staff would go to The Bridge( Wilf & Philips bar) on a Sunday lunchtime. Now that was an experience of fun , lol. Those were the days. I haven’t seen many of us Staff or customers since the 80’s, still in contact with a few.

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