SUNDERLAND’S most notorious nightclub is to be resurrected as a church.
The infamous New Monkey rave club plagued the lives of neighbours living in Pallion for years.
The venue became notorious for drug use, culminating in the death of 18-year-old Gary Henderson who was discovered slumped outside the club on July 27, 2003.
The premises were finally shut during a raid in March 2006 following a three-month undercover police operation.
Now, Living Praise Sunderland, a branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God currently based in Lily Street, Millfield, aims to breathe new life into the empty building by turning it into its new home.
A deal has been agreed to lease the property for 25 years, subject to solicitors finalising the paperwork.
The church’s Pastor Johnson Fajorin has been handed the keys, with work set to begin on a six-month programme to regenerate the building.
He said: “You can imagine what this will do for the community when it’s all done up properly.”
As well as a church, the huge venue will act as a soup kitchen, youth centre and elderly club and the Pastor hopes the community will embrace his ideas.
“We want to bring young people in,” he said.
“We will have programmes for them, as well as the elderly.
“We will have fellowship for them. You don’t have that in Pallion at the moment.
“It’s exciting for us because of what we stand for, bettering the lives of those in the community. We’re coming here to make an impact and bring back the old way of doing things, by bringing the neighbours together.”
The plans are music to residents’ ears, many of them having feared the venue could one day return to being a nightclub.
Amy Fisher, 21, who lives opposite the building, is expecting a baby and is pleased the prospect of noisy nights has been averted.
She said: “It wasn’t good when it was a club. There was a lot of drugs and people behaving inappropriately in the back streets and making lots of noise.
“I’m pleased it’s gone to a church group, who will hopefully treat the area with more respect.”
Belsay Gardens resident Marie Wilkinson, 56, shared Amy’s delight. She said: “It’s about time someone took it over, it’s nice to hear it’s getting put to good use.”
“Everyone was pleased when the club was shut down, it used to keep everyone awake,” said 60-year-old Alice Allan of Fordenbridge Crescent, while Jaqueline McKenna, 52, hopes the church can reinvigorate the community.
She said: “It’s good news for all the resident’s if it’s not going to be a club. I’m not a killjoy or anything but it’s better for the people living around it.
“It’ll be much quieter and the church could even start youth things, give the young people somewhere to go. I think it could do really well as a church, with all the parking around it and the location.
“It’s just nice to see an empty building occupied again.”