It was an inauspicious beginning.

All they wanted was a little more room to run their taxi business in Huddersfield.

But the decisions that Johnny and Joe Marsden made 45 years ago this week were to cement their place in the town’s business history. And they are still here.

The brothers went from that taxi office to set up an entertainment and leisure complex which thrived for decades.

It included Johnny's nightclub, The Boy & Barrel pub, a restaurant, a brasserie and latterly a hotel.

They sold up the Beast Market complex in 2003 but didn’t move very far; they took over a property on the other side of the road and 11 years on are still running the thriving Central lodge Hotel.

The brothers - who admit they have not always seen eye to eye - are still working together and admitted: “We’ve no intention of packing up just yet”.

It was in 1969 that Johnny, then aged 25, was running a taxi firm in Huddersfield and needed bigger premises. He saw that the former Old Bull’s Head in Beast Market was available and rented it, but quickly realised it offered more potential.

Pancake tossing at Johnnys in the 1970s
Pancake tossing at Johnnys in the 1970s
 

His younger brother Joe, then 16, was coming to an end of his studies at Elland Grammar school and joined his brother in business. They decided the building was ripe for conversion into a nightclub and on December 19, 1969, Johnnys opened its doors.

The Bulls Head was at first rented from the old Huddersfield Borough Council, until the brothers bought the building a few years later. Licensing laws were more stringent then and they had to wait a year for a 10.30pm licence and another six months for an 11.30pm licence. Finally they were granted a 2am licence.

Click below to see shots of Johnnys down the years.

 

Their efforts were helped along in the early 70s. In 1976 Britain was sweltering in what was the hottest summer on record at that time. Joe said: “All other discos were sweat boxes that year. We had a beer garden where 200 people could easily fit until 2am. We gained a lot of customers that summer and kept them.”

The following year Saturday Night Fever hit the cinema and disco fever took hold. The brothers did not look back.

A short time later,The Boy and Barrel pub was offered to the brothers when the landlady decided to retire. They didn’t really want a pub but knew that if someone else took it they could have a competitor. “But from the word go we were pleased we had taken it on. It is more like a local than a town pub,” said Joe. In the late 1970’s Britain had its first cod war with Iceland – not something you might expect to affect an entertainment business. But it did.

By 1999 the brothers had purchased, re-developed and opened the entire island complex consisting of the nightclub, Johnny’s Winebar, The Palace Brasserie, The Boy and Barrel Inn, The Rosemary Lane Bistro and the Huddersfield Hotel. All sections of the business enjoyed tremendous success, throughout the decades.

Were you in Johnnys?
Were you in Johnnys?
 

In early 2003, Joe was approached by London and Edinburgh Inns with an offer for all of the Island site. As a result of this meeting and after several months of negotiations the family agreed to accept a substantial sum for the sale of the Island property and business.

Joe said: “Neither of us want to pack up just yet.

“We are really enjoying our time at the Central Lodge Hotel. People talk about it being the hotel industry: I prefer to think of it as a hospitality industry and I have to say we are both good at that.

“We have 90 years’ experience between us of running hospitality businesses and we have a great team around us.

“It means Johnny and I can occasionally step back knowing the business is in good hands but we still intend to carry on working.

“As long as we have good health and continue to enjoy the work, we will carry on.

“There are no false smiles down here, we love the work and we love meeting people who come to Huddersfield from all over the world for business or for pleasure”

Want to see more on Huddersfield's nightclubs?

Click here to see in the former Heaven and Hell in the Co-op building on New Street.

Take a look inside the former Chicago Rock and Society club at the Palace Theatre here.

To see more pictures of lost Huddersfield nightclubs from the 1990s, click here.