The Golden Grill.
Bella’s Club. Millionaire Club, Club 2000, Rouge… However you remember it and whatever name your generation used, one word said it all.
You going the Grill? Aye.
I am saddened to see the news today that the famous building that housed Letterkenny’s legendary Golden Grill, is being demolished.
Well, saddened might be the wrong word. It’s been lying unopened for years, and it is approximately 14 years since I was last in it, so really, I have nothing to be sad about. But for so so many of us who grew up in and around Letterkenny, the Grill, for a huge chunk of our youths, was Life.
The queues. The bouncers, The joy of finally getting through the door with that ID… (I NEVER did this Mammy I promise…) The big hallway where immediately, we read the atmosphere and decided which direction in which to strut (sorry walk) first. Into the strobe lit, smokey deep and cavernous mayhem of Millionaires, later to become the uber cool and very funkified Club 2000? Or into the deep and dulcetly dim dens of Bella’s.
Millionaires. Oh the podiums…The steps… The raised levels… We all had our moment on those podiums, didn’t we? I’m pretty sure I spent FAR too much time strutting my not-quite-as-funky-but-slightly-so-drunky stuff on those podiums. We knew the spots. We knew where to stand, to see and be seen. We knew the corners certain people would surely be in. We knew the tricks of heading out to get coats before the final songs. We knew which bar to head towards.
Or maybe we shuffled towards Bella’s…to the cooler and less “Ooooooonce-oooooncey” music, the lesser jammed dance floor, the dare I say, older and “cooler” crowd, who preferred a drink, a boogie and shock horror, even a conversation to the full blown rave happening across the hall.
And then, the supper. Oh the SUPPER!
The free supper that you held your ticket tight all night to ensure that you got. How many supper tickets were produced from sweaty bras in those days eh? And the crush at the counter, calling for “curry chups and coleshlaaaaw” or “battered sausages”.
We knew that the craic. We were cool. Everyone in the grill was cool, even those of us who really weren’t.
The music. The crowds. The chaos. The squashed bodies. The shared sweat. The swapped saliva. Jesus lads, how did we survive? The glares and stares. The flirty glances and coy looks. The full on shift right there in the middle of a few thousand people. The dancing. The freedom. The buzz. The giddy energy. The drunkenness. The invincibility… Christ I could write a million more words and I still wouldn’t explain it all.
Even as I type this, the memories are making me smile.
The style. The heels. The nakedness. The slaps when a hand wandered too far. The protective brothers stepping in. The square-ups. The puffed chests. The bouncers. The scuffles. How a crowd of sardines could split instantaneously as bouncers removed whoever dared ruin the mood.
Friendships started and ended in the Grill. The problems of the world were solved in bathrooms and on sofas. You went in to the loo for a pee but came out with wisdom, advice and possibly a new best friend. Oh, and remember when we shared lipsticks and hairbrushes with strangers? Jaysus wept!
Relationship started (and ended!) in the Grill. Some of us old fogeys, now long past the joys of a packed nightclub, can attribute first kisses with the current partner to The Grill. Oh indeed, The Grill has a lot to answer for in some cases.
And yet, I sit here now, having heard that it’s going to cease to exist and I find myself reminiscing.
It was a huge part of life for us in the 90s and noughties. And it most certainly was a huge part of life for those who frequented it in the 70s and 80s. (I’ve heard the aunts and uncles telling stories!) I’m sure younger people have fond memories of events there in the past 10 years too, but of course EVERY generation thinks that THEY have the monopoly on the memories, don’t they?
I have fond memories (mostly) of my many many nights in it. Some are a bit blurry. Some have possibly been edited a bit in my mind. Some have been blotted from my memory accidentally on purpose. But in general, they are fond.
Memories of friendships, of dancing, of flirting, of laughing, of boogying, of eating, of dancing. Did I mention the dancing? Oh, the dancing!
The strobe lights. the smoke and even sometimes, fireworks for dramatic effect. The Grill was an icon. It will never be replicated. And I’m a little sad that my own daughters won’t get to experience it for themselves.
For now however, it moves into the history books, joining The Fiesta in the stuff of Letterkenny Legends. In the same way that I grew up listening to stories of The Fiesta from my parents, our kids will listen to stories of the Grill.
And they’ll roll their eyes and never understand how absolutely fecking EPIC it was to be us.
And if walls could talk, the walls of that building, while it still stands, could tell some stories. And when those walls do fall, the stories will stay with us. You can’t demolish memories.