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The only nightclub visited by the Queen

The only nightclub visited by the Queen


Liz Hurley and Princess Diana visit nightclub

Alpha, GettyActress Liz Hurley, left, in 1988, and Princess Diana, right, in 1987, attend Annabel’s nightclub

Frank Sinatra was one of the first guests when it opened in 1963 after which it attracted guests from Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins to The Rolling Stones, Prince Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Nicholson and Lord Lucan.

Famously it is also the only nightclub ever to have been visited by the Queen, who drank a gin martini at a party there in 2003.

So there was dismay when Annabel’s closed in 2015 for a move and total revamp.

This has now been replaced by anticipation ahead of it finally reopening this week at 46 Berkeley Square in Mayfair – two doors away from the original – after a £100million makeover “to end all makeovers”.

Prince Charles and Lady Diana arrive at nightclubAlan Davidson

The elite: Prince Charles and Lady Diana pull up outside Annabel’s nightclub in November 1987

Its new home is a Grade I-listed townhouse, said to be the most important Georgian building in London after Buckingham Palace.

Annabel’s reincarnated will be spread across four floors and 26,000 square feet, featuring bars, restaurants , private dining rooms, a terrace, cigar salon and spa.

But can it really replicate – or surpass – the heady glamour, sophistication and exclusivity that Annabel’s was renowned for in its 52-year former guise?

The original club was founded by entrepreneur Mark Birley, son of portrait painter Sir Oswald Birley, when his pal John Aspinall decided they needed somewhere to party after gambling.

Lady Diana arrives at Annabel's nightclubAlpha

Laa dee da: Hairdressers were equally as famous as princesses, such as Diana, pictured above in 1987

Birley spent £120,000 turning the basement of Aspinall’s casino, the Clermont Club at 44 Berkeley Square, into a nightclub and named it after his then wife Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart.

She later left him for his friend Sir James Goldsmith.

He was hellbent on Annabel’s being the most exclusive nightclub in London with the best staff, whom he poached from other upmarket clubs, bars and restaurants in the capital.

FIVE hundred of London’s elite were invited to be founder members for a five-guinea fee.

As well as dining, drinking and dancing this also gave them access to the first sound system in the UK to play American rock music, which Birley had fl own in from New York every week.

In a 2014 documentary about Annabel’s – A String Of Naked Lightbulbs – actress Goldie Hawn recalled that it was “an extraordinarily designed and conceived place and yet you felt like you could put your feet up”.

Despite the strict jacket and tie dress code which once saw Eric Clapton turned away and The Beatles refused entry because they weren’t wearing shoes, Mick Jagger was given dispensation not to wear a tie.

The editor of US Vogue, Anna Wintour, frequented the club when she lived in London and remembers it well.

“The 1960s was an extraordinary time to be in London.

“All those different worlds were starting to collide.

“Hairdressers were equally as famous as duchesses and at the centre of that was Annabel’s, standing for the old world but also representing the new.”

“Over the years it was the venue for fashion shows by the late Alexander McQueen, dinner parties for Princess Margaret plus intimate gigs by pop star Lady Gaga and DJ Mark Ronson.

“Like most privileged playgrounds Annabel’s has a colourful past.

Margaret Thatcher visiting Annabel's nightclubAlan Davidson

Even the ‘Iron Maiden’ Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister, visited in 1992

“Socialite and interior designer Nicky Haslam went to the opening party in 1963 for Vogue and recalled that “smooching was part of the point.

“Many a marriage broke up at Annabel’s”.

Famously Sarah Ferguson and Princess Diana turned up dressed as police offi cers in 1986 – having failed to gatecrash Prince Andrew’s stag do – and in 2006 the club was the setting for a kiss between Jemima Goldsmith and supermodel Kate Moss for which Sir Philip Green had paid £60,000 at a charity dinner.

Eventually Birley was ready to give up his club and in June 2007, two months before his death aged 77, he sold Annabel’s for a reported £100million to clothing tycoon and restaurateur Richard Caring, who is worth an estimated £700 million.

Like most privileged playgrounds Annabel’s has a colourful past. Many a marriage broke up at Annabel’s

Anna Wintour

In January 2015 Caring announced that he would be splurging some of those riches to reinvent Annabel’s so it was closing its doors after 52 years and moving down the road to begin its transformation.

Last spring he appointed Alexander Spencer-Churchill, grandson of the 10th Duke of Marlborough and socialite Astrid Harbord, to “sift through” the club’s 7,000 existing members

with a view to removing those “who are not really cool”.

Membership for the new club is by invitation only and candidates will require a proposer and seconder.

Founder of Annabel's Mark Birley and ex-wife AnnabelAlan Davidson

Annabel’s Founder Mark Birley and ex-wife Annabel, his inspiration, in 1990

The joining fee will range from £250 to £1,250 with the annual subscription up to £2,750.

An exclusive so-called “legacy” membership, limited to 100 people, costs £150,000.

As for the new dress code, smart trainers and jeans are allowed before 7pm but the new establishment will not welcome “cheap, ill-fitting suits”, “shoes that women can’t walk in”, “sunglasses at night” (bad news for Wintour), “visible pantylines” or “dirty fingernails”.

The eyes of the elite and famous are now on the club’s lavish reopening to see whether it really can live up to the colourful, exclusive – but discreet – past of its predecessor.

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