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The beat goes on.


AS MIDDLESBROUGH'S only dedicated reggae club regains its drinks licence and looks set to undergo a PS400k refit, The Gazette looks back on the history of a Teesside institution.

The club had its licence revoked after a man was attacked in June.

But according to Mincoffs Solicitors, the club is set to reopen under new management after being granted an alcohol licence.

Many a Teessider will have stepped - or stumbled - through the doors of the establishment, in Bridge Street West, over the years, so here's a look back at the Bongo's past.

THE FIRST BEATS OF THE BONGO It all began in the early 1960s when Club Bongo International's founder, Abdillahi Warsama, was turned away from a London nightclub because of the colour of his skin.

Appalled yet inspired, Abdillahi decided to take matters into his own hands and open a night club of his very own, where everyone was welcome.

At the time, the building that would become the Bongo, located "over the border" opposite Middlesbrough railway station on Bridge Street West, was the Kenya Cafe curry house owned by Abdillahi's relative, Ismail Dube.

Abdillahi, whose family is originally from Somalia, bought the club and opened it as Unity Club before changing its name to the Bongo in 1963.

TOWN'S OLDEST NIGHTCLUB OWNER Abdillahi continued to run his club for decades, becoming the town's oldest nightclub owner. When he died in September 2016, he was 104 years old.

And, although Abdillahi had taken a step back from the day-to-day running of the club in later years, nothing was given the go-ahead without his say-so.

TROUBLES AT THE CLUB It's fair to say the Bongo has had its share of problems over the years.

The club had its licence suspended for three weeks following a serious assault inside it in 2013.

At the time, lawyers said: "Club Bongo is an extremely well-known and popular venue which is as much a part of the town as the Transporter Bridge and the chicken parmo."

The club reopened but in May this year, its drinks licence was suspended two days after a man was left in a "serious condition" in hospital after being found unconscious outside.

Then in June, a report released to The Gazette by Middlesbrough Council revealed the licence would remain revoked "to promote the prevention of crime and disorder".

The report said: "After carefully considering the representations the committee decided that it was appropriate and proportionate that the interim step to suspend the licence remained in place in order to safeguard the public and to promote the prevention of crime and disorder.

"In summary, the committee considered there was such a serious attack on a customer at the premises and a complete failure in the premises licence holder's, and the designated premises supervisor's, ability to control and manage their premises and to safely protect their customers."

WORLD FAMOUS Speaking in 2016, former manager Abdi Ahmed explained how far and wide the name Club Bongo resonated.

"People love it, it's fantastic music," said Abdi from central Middlesbrough. People over four generations have been coming here. We're famous for reggae all over the world.

If you go to Africa, Jamaica, for example, they'll have heard of the Bongo.

"It's part of Middlesbrough and it's international, you wouldn't believe how many people who've said they remember their families, or sailors, talking about it."

WHAT NOW? Club Bongo International regained its alcohol licence this month and is set to reopen under new management following a full refurbishment. Following the decision, new licensee Joy Clayton said: "The aim is to open around spring 2018 and I am very excited for what is ahead for Club Bongo International."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 23, 2017
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