The venue is the brainchild of Howard Spooner, who was the principle shareholder at the recently closed Public nightclub in Chelsea. It comes less than a week after Guy Pelly, who was also part of the management team at Public, announced he is to open the Tonteria Mexican cocktail bar and restaurant in Sloane Square in October.
“Public was very big and this is a lot smaller,” said Spooner, who now co-owns Dukebox and also owns the Clapham Grand nightclub. I wanted to do my own thing. The relationship between Guy and I was so powerful together at Public that we were victims of our own success.
“Guy’s the Pied Piper of the young in Chelsea and all credit to him for his next venture - we’re still great friends.”
Fun and surprise
Located on a 3,000 sq.ft site, Dukebox will have a capacity for 230, operating under the mantra of ‘a very British fun club’. It will feature a New York warehouse-style interior with eccentric theatrical touches and a series of nods to fantastical and idiosyncratically British design.
The overall theme will invoke a ‘grown-up’s playground’, celebrating the elements of fun and surprise with nostalgic details prominent throughout, including carousel horses, a roundabout podium, caged jack-in-the-boxes, booths in the guise of Waltzer cars, a giant duck-on-a-spring and private dance floor caves.
Dukebox’s staff is made up from the entire team at Public, excluding Pelly. The venue’s name is reminiscent of the 17th century nursery rhymes The Grand Old 'Duke' of York and a jack-in-the-'box' toy.
Sharing cocktails, designed for between six and 10 people, at the venue include the Egg and Soldier - a giant egg cup painted with a soldier, which opens to reveal a vodka-based cocktail. The drink will have its own soundtrack, and be delivered to the table by marching soldiers carrying sparklers. ‘The Present’, an oversized gift box containing a cocktail, will be wrapped in a big bow and served with a confetti bomb.
Learnt from mistakes of Public
Spooner and Pelly were forced to close Public in May of this year due to it being labelled a crime generator for the area. But Spooner believes he has learned from the experience.
“We learned so much from what happened at Public,” he said. “The residents are a very powerful voice and you need to listen to them. You need to work very closely with them to make sure everybody can live side-by-side.
“We did make mistakes - we made the offer too available, for too many people that were too young an age. We have an over 21’s policy here at Dukebox.
“With Public we stumbled across what we were. And now this time round we’ve done a full brand exercise to understand what it is that we are, how we will operate and where our pitfalls were before.”
Speaking of the potential to expand Dukebox based on its potential success, he added: “I’d like to roll it out internationally, but I wouldn’t do another one in the UK.”
Dukebox's other co-owner is Dipak Panchal, who is also behind numerous other London ventures. The new nightclub is expected to open on 12 September.