Over recent weeks, we have become accustomed to the sight of formerly bustling businesses, shops and leisure facilities taking on a look of desolation and abandonment.
But for one key location in Mayfair, that’s old news. The Clermont Club was once on a par with Monte Carlo in terms of exclusivity, but it closed its doors two years ago after recording losses of £5 million in 2017.
However, when London returns to normality later this year, this iconic gambling venue on Berkeley Square will once again throw open its doors to the city’s high rollers.
A varied history
The Clermont was originally launched by John Aspinall, of zoo fame, back in the mid 1960s. It was one of the first casinos to be launched in the city, following a change in law.
These changes had been brought about by Aspinall himself after successfully challenging charges brought against him for running an illegal gaming house in 1958.
The first ever members at the Clermont included two cabinet ministers, five dukes and five earls. It was also a renowned celebrity hangout that was popular with such figures as Princess Margaret, Peter Sellers, Roger Moore, Lucian Freud, Lord Lucan and Ian Fleming.
Back then, controls and regulation were very different from what we see today, and there are rumours that the games were not always entirely fair.
The Clermont was sold to Playboy Enterprises in the early 1980s, and then passed into the hands of Rank Group.
They in turn sold it to BIL International, which later became Guoco Leisure and used the Clermont name for its new range of luxury hotels.
By the 2010s, however, the gambling market was an entirely different beast to those carefree days of the swinging sixties. Giant casino entertainment complexes like The Hippodrome in Leicester Square were becoming the vogue, with floor upon floor of slots and table games.
And then there were the online options – you need only glance through these dozens of online casino reviews to see the vast choice that anyone can access from their laptop or smartphone. The net result? The Clermont was haemorrhaging money and the owners closed it down in March 2018.
A brighter future
Of course, these are uncertain times, but subject to the wider questions surrounding coronavirus, the future is looking positive for the Clermont.
Last year, it was purchased by Mayfair Casino Ltd, a relatively new entrant in the casino sector.
The rising popularity of online casinos has actually proved to be a positive thing for land-based ones.
Rather than competing for their customers, casinos in cyberspace tend to attract new gamers who have never visited a casino before – but after getting into slots, blackjack and roulette, they might well consider doing so.
The purchase was completed for the sum of £23 million in May of last year, and since then, Mayfair has been ploughing more money into the place ready for a grand opening.
Exactly when that will be is very much up in the air, but it’s an event that gamers, and perhaps even some famous royal names, will be looking forward to with anticipation.