Oompah band was an offbeat part of Sheffield’s 1970s nightlife
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Here, the author of the nostalgia books series, Neil Anderson, looks at Sheffield’s Hofbrauhaus and the Penny Farthing in the 1970s:
The Penny Farthing was definitely one of the mostrevered nightclubs of the era.
It considered itself a notch above most other places.
The Hofbrauhaus next door, at the junction of Furnival Gate and Eyre Street in the city centre, was a rather different animal.
Eyre Street lapped it up and the people came from miles around for “a really rollicking Bavarian-style night out” and the beer came direct from Germany.
Hofbrauhaus offered its own in-house Oompah band and other drinking-marathon-style entertainment.
There was even a yearly Miss Hofbrau competition.
Orrett Hanson had one of the fastest rises through the ranks in the history of seventies nightlife.
He started as a glass collector just a few weeks after opening in 1973.
He was then duly promoted to bouncer, head doorman and ended up as bar manager for the lifetime of the venue and onwards as it became Dingwalls in the 1980s.
His love of the place was as strong as any marriage – he even wed one of the regulars, Jacqueline.
The place was a massive success from the day it opened.
Orrett said: “We’d have up to 900 people in there.
“I used to book the parties in and I’d allocate them to their seats on arrival. We’d have anything up to 100 people in any one party.
“The entertainment was the Oompah band with a DJ in between.
“The Oompah band would come on twice a night and everyone would dance on the tables.
“The DJ would play Tamla Motown and disco music whilst the band stuck to German music.
“The band went down well – it was a real novelty.
“Thursday, Friday and Saturday were our big nights – the rest of the week was steady.
“Many people would go straight to the PennyFarthing next door afterwards.”
Coaches would arrive from all around the region: parties from Leeds, Bradford and Nottingham would be common.
It was part of the Hofbrauhaus chain, with others in Hull, Blackpool and other stein-swilling strongholds.
Doorman Stuart Smith said they ended up having to ban stag parties as things regularly got out of hand.
He said: “When we got trouble we really got it. If you came with a party of 25 you got in cheaper, but parties regularly fought each other.
“We ended up stopping stag parties and only allowed mixed parties.”
Hofbrauhaus entertainment wasn’t always based on the picture postcard feel of the sweeping Bavarian Alps.
Tastes change; by the mid to late seventies the Oompah band had begun to fall out of favour.
Dinner times offered strippers, topless go-go dancers, free booze and sausage and mash for just 27p.
Orrett Hanson: “We weren’t getting the custom and the novelty had worn off a bit. The strippers went on for nearly three years. It was only 5p to get in.
“It was very popular for the first 18 months. All the firms used to come in their dinner hour.
“We had an incident one dinner time when a guy was watching a stripper and his wife turned up unannounced and threw beer all over him.
“We had another incident where the wife of one of the managers was in the office and she spotted her husband watching the strippers.
“She played hell with him and proceeded to get on the stage and started stripping herself. I had to go up and drag her off.”
By 1977 the Penny Farthing next door had reinvented itself as the popular Scamps.
Marked by images of sultry-looking ladies at the entrance and elaborate Victorian-style mirrors inside (complete with images of yet more ladies – this time in Victorian underwear).
This article is taken from Neil Anderson’s Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1970s Sheffield – available for £13.95 from www.dirtystopouts.com