Sweatbox is the mega popular Boyz Award-winning sauna and gym located on the edge of Soho, just off Oxford Street. On Monday it’s closing its doors for a major makeover and refit. Dave Cross spoke to owners Mark and Jason Ford about what’s happening and about the Million Pound Makeover Party this Sunday.
Hi Mark and Jason, we hear big changes are happening over at Sweatbox, what’s going on?
Mark: After protracted negotiations with our landlord we have finally secured a nice long lease, so we can begin our million pound makeover and roll out the new, massively improved Sweatbox.
Jason: This is something we have been planning for some time. Sweatbox has been open for ten years now and after welcoming over two million customers through our doors it’s time for more than a lick of paint.
M: We say ‘makeover’ because it sounds camp but it’s actually a complete rebuild – stripping the whole place back to a shell and starting again.
Without giving too much away, what are the plans?
M: Our key words for the redesign are ‘busy, clean, stylish, sexy and fun’, and we’re confident that we’re going to deliver on all of those counts.
J: As well as upgrading much of the boring technical side of things, like state-of-the-art heating, ventilation and automatic sanitising systems, we are putting in a brand new giant Jacuzzi, a new tiled hammam and an amazing new series of interconnected steam rooms.
M: One of the most important initiatives we have come up with is a far more civilised way of keeping drugs out of the premises without the need for intrusive and lengthy bag searches. Members of our community are still playing Russian roulette every time they take GBL – as a responsible business we have gone to great lengths to keep this problem out of our premises, but until now that’s meant intrusive bag searches, which we hated doing as we recognise how frustrating this is for the 99% of customers who have done nothing wrong. In the future we will have a new system that will prevent the need for this. I’m not going to go into details now but it doesn’t involve a sniffer dog sniffing your butt nor one of those X-ray machines that shows everyone your bits. It’s much simpler.
Are there any new physical elements you will be bringing to the venue?
M: We’re creating a much larger lounge area for one, as we want to enhance Sweatbox’s reputation as an enjoyable social space. We feel the central issue within our community (especially in London) is loneliness and the disconnect that comes with this. We hope to be able to help in some small way by offering a space in which people can connect in more ways than the obvious! We also hope to extend our collaborative approach to community outreach work. In the past we have worked with both 56 Dean Street and Afterparty and we are looking for other ways we can help by offering a much needed central London space.
J: We’ve all heard the stories of the glory days of the saunas of old like New York’s Continental Baths, where Bette Midler and Barry Manilow used to perform, and we are going to try to bring back some of that old magic with new events in the future.
M: We love cabaret and have made a lot of friends in that field through our Mr & Mr Ford events, and we are planning to draw upon those connections to include more of that in the new Sweatbox. So stay tuned.
J: But old favourites like our under 25s nights will still be there, plus the foam parties will be back bigger and better than ever. And much more besides that we have to keep secret for now.
How long will Sweatbox be closed for?
M: You can never tell where builders are concerned, but the plan is to be no more than 12 to 15 weeks.
J: If anyone wants to keep up with our progress throughout the refurbishment, they can follow us on Facebook or Instagram at Sweatboxsoho. They can also sign up for text updates by texting Hardhat to 88802.
M: By doing this you will get a free invite to our re-opening party, which we intend to be SPECTACULAR. Unless we spend all the money on tile grout, in which case it will be some complimentary cheesy Quavers and Lady Lloyd on a karaoke machine.
J: But as anyone who’s been to a Mr & Mr Ford party will know, we do know how to have fun. And fun it will be.
What can you tell us about your closing party this weekend?
M: Well we wanted to go out with a bang, so we are giving away 100 FREE entries to Sweatbox this Sunday (12 Aug), which will be our last day of business before the refurbishment starts. We’ll be closing the doors at midnight so best to get in good and early.
J: We wanted to give everyone one last blowout to say goodbye to the old Sweatbox before the builders came in, and what better way than to be filled to the rafters with all of our sexy friends?
M: All they have to do is text FREESWEAT to 88802 in order to be entered into the draw for the free entry by midday on Saturday (11 Aug).