Soho explosion: Blast at 'London's oldest strip club' sparks mass evacuation in central London

Fiona Simpson, Saphora Smith

An explosion at "London's oldest strip club" in Soho has sparked a mass evacuation in central London.

Emergency services taped-off part of Shaftesbury Avenue, around 5.30pm on Friday following a "gas or electricity explosion" in the men's toilets of the Windmill Club in Archer Street.

The venue, based in the old Windmill theatre, is described online as the “oldest and most iconic strip club in London” and claims to have started showcasing strip and nude dancing in the 1930s when “nowhere else in London had done so”.

A worker at the club told the Standard: “I was in the office when I heard the bang come from the gents' toilet. According to the fire brigade it came from the toilets, something to do with the heating system.

'Iconic club': Emergency services taped off swathes of Soho (Gulsen Burak)

“I was in the office which is two rooms away at the time. Thank God I wasn’t there. I called my manager to call the fire brigade.

“It’s an old building, it used to be a theatre. Downstairs the basement is a mess. I’m still in shock. The fire brigade has told me we have to go.”

'Huge bang': Swathes of Soho have been closed off (Twitter/@SamHodges)

The assistant manager of a jewellery store in nearby Great Windmill Street said she was in the store with two customers when she heard the bang.

She told the Standard: “I ran out of the shop to see what had happened. I heard a bang and then saw the smoke coming from the ground and out of the ventilation system of the Windmill nightclub.

“The pavement broke so I guess the explosion happened underneath the ground.”

The 35-year-old said: “The police and fire brigade are still here and the road is closed so no customers can come to the shop.”

She added: “The couple who were in the store left because they got scared. Most people weren’t too worried though they started filming and taking photos.”

Police cordon: Nearby offices and shops were evacuated (Nick Edell)

Andrew Wildman, from Essex, was walking past the club when smoke began to pour from the pavement outside.

He said: “We arrived just before 6pm and there were lots and lots and police and many vans.

“A woman came out of the Windmill and said that there had been an explosion in the basement.

“The pavement outside had been blown up and there was a little bit of smoke coming out.

“The police started to cordon off the street and move people away.”

Pictures posted on social media showed a police cordon in place opposite the popular Rainforest Cafe.

Witness Nick Edell wrote on Twitter: "Explosion on Rupert Street and the office has been evacuated. That's one way to end the week."

Stephan Macdonald wrote on Twitter: “OMG just had a gas explosion go off next to us in Soho.

“Whole street has been evacuated now.”

Other users described the scene as “chaotic”.

Transport for London said the area, popular with tourists and theatre-goers, had been closed-off as part of a “major emergency services incident”.

Scotland Yard confirmed officers had been called to reports of an explosion.

No one is believed to have been injured.

Emergency response: The explosion reportedly happened in the male toilets of 'London's oldest and most iconic strip club' (Nick Edell)

A spokesman said: “Police were called at 5.30pm on Friday, March 3 to reports of a small explosion at premises in Archer Street, W1.

“The explosion has caused some damage to the pavement outside the building.

“Local road closures are in place while the LFB assess the scene.

“Pedestrians and motorists are advised to avoid the area.

“The incident is not being treated as terrorist related.”

Shaftesbury Avenue and Great Windmill Street reopened shortly after 8pm.

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