DEMOLITION work has started on a landmark former nightclub and bowling alley.
Bulldozers have started to tear down the Excel alley and Palace nightspot in Monkwearmouth, Sunderland.
The Newcastle Road building, which closed in December after nearly 50 years in business, is being dismantled to make way for a new Tesco superstore.
Among the rubble are reminders of the venue’s heyday as a buzzing club and bowling alley – including bowling pins and champagne glasses.
The Locarno ballroom, known as the Mecca, became one of Sunderland’s top venues in the 1960s and 70s, playing host to some of the world’s biggest bands.
Radio One legend DJ John Peel declared Rod Stewart and the Faces at the Locarno in 1973 as his all-time favourite gig.
Many of the bands were booked by legendary music promoter Geoff Docherty – including Free, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, The Who and Mott the Hoople.
Geoff said: “I was videoed outside there two weeks ago and I looked up the ramp and I remembered all the queues for Led Zeppelin, The Who and for Free and when Free did a live album the queue was down to the Wheatsheaf roundabout.
“I looked up the ramp. It brought back all those memories and I felt quite sad.
“It was the only venue in Sunderland that could hold 3,000 people.
“I know Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen are coming to the Stadium of Light, but the chance of getting big groups to Sunderland every week are gone.”
The club was later renamed the Mayfair and then the Palace, before closing down for good in April 2003.
The family-run firm which operated the bowling alley hopes to be back in business from a 19,396 square foot site in Sunderland Enterprise Park, subject to a planning application being approved.