Lost nightclub set on fire twice has once again become an ‘iconic’ Liverpool venue

A former nightclub described as the ‘Mecca of acid house music’ has offered a reward to catch the arsonists who torched the venue twice in a matter of weeks.

Originally opened as a stunning ballroom in the 1920s, The State nightclub on Dale Street became an iconic dance music nightclub in the late 1980s and 1990s, attracting clubbers from across the UK . However, despite its status, the club has had a checkered history.

The club was closed in 1988 and stripped of its entertainment and alcohol license after Merseyside Police claimed it had become a hangout for young people using ecstasy (MDMA). The illegal drug had become notorious after it was implicated in a number of high-profile deaths of young people who attended raves across the UK at the time.

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It was also claimed that the nightclub let in 500 people beyond its capacity for Acid House parties. The club was reopened in 1990 following a change in management and a strict anti-drugs policy was put in place. Acid House music was also banned from playing on site and all door staff were replaced.

Just a year after the nightclub reopened, it was brought to its knees by a deliberately ignited fire during Bonfire Night in 1991. In an effort to burn down the former ballroom, the arsonists had used timing switches connected to the cable and the cable, as well as other items, to form a pair of incendiary devices.

However, the homemade incendiary bombs did not ignite, instead a petrol-soaked carpet – set on fire by the arsonists – spilled into the nightclub, causing nearly £100,000 in damage. Following the devastating fire, the club was closed for weeks for repairs and renovations before reopening just five days before Christmas 1991.

But on Tuesday, January 14, 1992 – just 10 weeks after the first fire – arsonists struck again, causing catastrophic damage to the building for the second time. 11 fire engines rushed to the scene on Dale Street to tackle the blaze which started just before 11pm on a Tuesday evening, with one officer injured as a result of falling debris.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus prepare to enter the State Ballrooms on Dale Street, Liverpool at the height of the blaze. Liverpool, Merseyside. January 15, 1992

Police said they believe the same criminals struck twice and it was the work of hired professional arsonists. Chief Detective Inspector Frank Thompson, acting head of the CID in Liverpool at the time, said: “We are considering arson. It was around the same time of the week as last when the state been closed and started the same floor,” adding, “I’m sure whoever did the last one did this one too.”

The scene in the gallery of the State Ballrooms in Liverpool, after the fire.  Liverpool, Merseyside.  January 15, 1992
The scene in the gallery of the State Ballrooms in Liverpool, after the fire. Liverpool, Merseyside. January 15, 1992

After the second fire, the company that owns The State ballrooms offered a “substantial cash reward” in a desperate bid to catch the culprits. The company was quoted in the Liverpool Echo as offering “a large amount to whoever can name the wreckers”.

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Despite the reward offered, it is not believed that anyone was ever convicted of the arson attacks of the early 1990s. Merseyside Police said they had no current records relating to the case and that, as the offenses had been committed 30 years ago, no one dealing with the case at the time would still be working in the force.

Monster rat for a monster rave at The State nightclub on Dale Street.  February 29, 1996
Monster rat for a monster rave at The State nightclub on Dale Street. February 29, 1996

The club have managed to bounce back after installing sophisticated electronic and monitoring equipment worth £30,000 to deter anyone from starting any more fires. In the mid-1990s the club enjoyed a renaissance hosting huge events such as Monster Jam and Garlands, with The State reunion events still taking place today for what is now considered one of the emblematic nightclubs of the city.

Does this bring back memories for you? Let us know in the comments section below.

Since 2014, the Grade II listed State Insurance Building has housed the JD Gym.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement