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Mixed emotions as workmen demolish Clayhouse Inn

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End of an era: demolition work starts at the iconic Clayhouse Inn (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

An historic entertainment venue that attracted world-class entertainers to the island is being razed to the ground. The Clayhouse Inn on North Shore, Devonshire, deteriorated after it was damaged in a 2002 fire and will soon be levelled. But people in the area yesterday had mixed emotions about the end of an era.Maurice Brimmer, a manager at takeout restaurant and bar The Inferno Lounge Two, which neighbours the building, said he spent much of his youth at the Clayhouse and admitted he watched with a heavy heart as demolition crews started work. Mr Brimmer said: “It’s not an eyesore to me — I have some good memories of that place.” Mr Brimmer added: “It was a party place. We used to have Sunday and Saturday matinees, we used to have the cruise ships coming in, the Queen of Bermuda and the Ocean Monarch — the buses used to pick them up off the ship and drop them off. “It‘s not like today with all the fighting and shooting.“It was black and white — everybody in there.”The Clayhouse Inn became a top venue after the late Choy Aming Sr leased it in 1967, but it was shuttered after the blaze.Carnival dancers, the Not the Um Um Show, novelty acts and international artists from Ziggy Marley to Roberta Flack performed at the club.Mr Aming’s sons said they had happy memories and grew up at the Clayhouse.Chan Aming said: “Clayhouse was a pillar of my life growing up.Mr Aming added: “I was in there from the time I was a toddler right through until working there in my mid-twenties. Mr Aming added: “Almost every Bermudian over 40 has a Clayhouse story.”Mr Aming said: “It was also the place where so many local artists got their start.“It is definitely sad seeing it go, but obviously it is a hazard at this point.”Choy Aming Jr added: “Everybody came to Clayhouse. Whether you saw the Not the Um Um Show, one of the hypnotists, a reggae dancehall session, soca music or one of the many international superstars, everyone came there at some point.”Verda Burgess, 76, said she worked as a waitress at the Clayhouse Inn when she was 16 years old.She added: “That place was gorgeous — we had all the great musicians coming over from the States, the Sunday matinees, the nightclub.”Ms Burgess admitted: “It makes my heart bleed to see it like that.“I am glad it is coming down too, because it is an eyesore — it’s just too bad they couldn’t have fixed it up.” The site is owned by Donald Evans, son of the late Dame Lois Browne-Evans, a prominent Progressive Labour Party politician.Mr Evans is the grandson of the Clayhouse’s original owner, James Browne.Clayhouse Renaissance Ltd pitched proposals to build a four-storey apartment block on the site with a two-storey commercial building and a restaurant and offices about ten years ago. But residents in the area resisted the move and the project was dropped. One woman whose house overlooks the site says she was glad the building is to come down.The woman, who asked not to be named, added: “It has definitely been an eyesore.”She said: “It is getting worse — the roof is crumbling in and the trees are growing through the roof.“I have been worried that it will become a danger to the traffic. The woman added: “It is time for it to go.“It takes away from the scenery of Bermuda.“It’s had its day and it is just an eyesore now.”

Everybody went to Clayhouse: Maurice Brimmer, has happy memories of the Clayhouse Inn (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)