The lessons all clubs can learn from Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights

It was perhaps one of the greatest comedies of the noughties. Definitely the best about Lancashire clubland.

But behind all the laugh out loud and cringe moments, there were some pretty important lessons that real-life clubs can take from Bolton’s finest club-cum-solarium-cum-Chinese restaurant.

In this article, we’re going to reminisce about some of the finest moments from Phoenix Nights, and ask what clubs can do to avoid the pitfalls of Brian Potter and the rest of the crew.

Please note that as we want every Club Insure blog to be accessible for all, we’re going to avoid some of the more…risque material.

1. Keith Lard’s visit

In series 1, Brian Potter and Jerry St Clair attend an off-site meeting of club owners, where they’re given a talk on fire safety by the over-officious, Keith Lard. After the meeting, Lard informs Brian and Jerry that the first club on his inspection list for that day is the Phoenix club. The two try to race back to the club to fix the many (and obvious) fire hazards.

However, after being pulled over by the police, in an incident which would later earn Jerry 3 points on his license and a £200 fine, Keith beats them to the Phoenix and takes away their licence.

But through DJ, Ray Von’s use of photoshop, and ongoing rumours that Keith ‘enjoys the company’ of furry four-legged friends, The Phoenix club bribe Lard into restoring the license.

The lesson: As we see later on in the series, fire safety is crucial and having the proper risk management procedures in place to prevent the spread of fire is crucial for the club and anyone in it. In this episode, Keith Lard finds hidden fire extinguishers and locked fire exits. Both of these could, and most likely would, make you non-compliant with your insurance and your license.

You can’t rely on having a less-than-morally-reputable fire safety officer to bribe, and Brian’s negligence to proper fire safety nearly cost him his business.

On an amusing side note, there’s also a lesson here for any club who are active in marketing and social media. Peter Kay and Channel 4 were actually sued for £10,000 by a Mr Keith Laird: a real life employee of Manchester Council. He claimed that the Keith Lard character shared many of his characteristics (to the point where he believed he had been the muse for Kay’s idea) and this had a detrimental effect on his life – his colleagues had started nicknaming him ‘woof-woof’. The lesson for clubs here is to think about what you’re saying in public and how it might affect your reputation or your legal/insurance commitments.

2. Brian Potter has his license revoked

At the start of series 2, in the aftermath of the original Phoenix club’s firery end, Brian is summoned to court to fight for his right to retain his license. Unfortunately for Brian, his past catches up with him.

The judge tells him that after his first two clubs, The Aquarius (flood) and The Neptune (burned down) were lost, the fire at the Phoenix club was the final straw. The judge said that Brian had taken ‘shortcuts’ with fire alarms and fire safety equipment which could have prevented the fire.

Despite excellent (and slightly farfetched) testimony from the staff at his club, including Kenny Senior stating that his surname was ‘Dalglish’), Brian’s request for the renewal of his license is denied.

The lesson: Loss of licence, for whatever reason, can be catastrophic for any club. But it’s a real possibility if the relevant authorities deem you to be negligent in the way you run your club. You should leave no stone unturned when giving your club, and it’s members, the proper protection.

3. Brian Potter is investigated by the DSS

In series 1, Brian meets a mullet-haired Beverley at a singles night run by the club, and begins to date her. Everything seems to be going swimmingly for Brian. Beverley is, for some reason, charmed by Brian’s lack of personal skills and sensitivity.

In what is, in this writer’s opinion, the best scene from the entire show, Brian is less than polite to a lady attempting to sell him a rose in a romantic restaurant, but Beverley laughs and finds it endearing.

However, as Brian’s feelings towards Beverley grow, she reveals that she isn’t all that she seems. She actually works for the DSS (Department of Social Security) and has been investigating Brian for benefit fraud.

Despite Beverley’s pleas that her feelings towards Brian are real, he breaks things off, heartbroken.

The lesson: Although this story is (hopefully) quite farfetched, it is a real possibility that one of your officers or directors will come under legal or financial scrutiny. And this could have a detrimental affect on your club.  If you are a director or officer of a club, you will of course know that you have to be squeaky clean in all your operations, and thorough in your appointment of others. But did you also know that there are insurance products out there to protect the club if one of your directors hasn’t been as squeaky clean as you? Contact Club Insure for more information on D&O Liability cover.

4. Den Perry sets the club on fire

Back to that fire that causes Brian to lose his license…and it was started by rival club owner, Den Perry.

After the Phoenix club had successfully staged the money-making final of Talent-Trek (despite Right Said Frank playing the backing music for the singers), Den gets jealous and throws his lit cigar in a toilet bin filled with paper towels. The cigar ignites the paper and the whole club goes up in flames.

The lesson: We’re back on risk management here, because this incident could have been avoided. Luckily, with smoking now banned in public places, it’s much less likely that a cigar could be disposed of in such a dangerous manner. But people still carry lighters and other fire starting equipment. To avoid such issues, or at least to stay on the right side of their insurance compliance commitments, there are a few things the Phoenix club could have done better:

  1. Used covered bins made from fire-proof material that could have contained the fire.
  2. Made regular checks of the toilet (and noted when the checks were made) and made sure they were emptying the bin regularly.
  3. Installed a fire alarm in the toilet that could have alerted people to the problem much sooner.

5. Right Said Frank break into cars in the car park

As mentioned above, local tribute band, Right Said Frank are hired by the club as the backing band for Talent Trek. This is because the usual musicians, Les Alanos, are away directing (and acting in) a local production of Karate Kid the Musical.

But Right Said Frank turn out to be low-level criminals, who use each break in the show as an opportunity to break into cars in the car park.

They’re only stopped when they bump into the wrong car: bouncer Max’s car, which has recently been fitted with a custom alarm. As soon as the club’s doorman and his colleague, Paddy, hear the words, ‘get back you bugger (cleaned up for the kids), I’ll break your legs’, they run towards the car park and tackle the assailants.

The lesson: This lesson is a bit of a two-parter. For one, the club should have been fitted with CCTV around the parameter, which could have alerted them that the break ins were occurring. It would have also helped bring the criminals to justice in a rather more legal way than Max and Paddy did.

And secondly, all contractors and outside companies should be subject to proper checks. Thorough background-checks would most likely have highlighted Right Said Frank as having dubious backgrounds, and the club could have looked elsewhere for their backing band. Phoenix Nights is a fantastic comedy, but many of their problems could happen in real life if the proper precautions aren’t taken by clubs. If you want to work with a company that can help you stay compliant, whilst protecting your club and its customers, contact us today.

*all images and videos are copyright of Channel 4, Peter Kay and Goodnight Vienna Productions

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Sam Humphrey

Sam Humphrey

Sam is Club Insure's Digital Communications Manager. It's his job to make sure that our readers are getting the information they want in the ways they want it. You can contact him on Twitter (@itssamhumphrey) with requests for content.