A CLUB boss's dream of re-opening his controversial nightspot has been shattered after it was gutted in an arson attack.
Ian Jackson vowed to re-open Monroes in Wood Street, Great Harwood, in last week's Observer, just days after winning a marathon court case in which he was cleared of turning a blind eye to drug-dealing on the premises.
But his plans were left in tatters when arsonists drove a Peugeot 405 through the front doors of the club on Tuesday night before starting a huge fire.
Around 40 firefighters spent several hours tackling the blaze, which destroyed the bar, seating area, dance floor, DJ booth and equipment.
Great Harwood Town Football Club's sports bar, including the changing rooms, was also badly damaged in the inferno.
The following morning, Mr Jackson, 60, said: "I am totally devastated. I won the court case and I was hoping to refurbish the club and re-open it in a couple of months. I can't see that happening now."
Mr Jackson, who lives in Sabden, continued: "The two buildings were linked together. In fact they all used to be part of the same building. I had to rely on a friend to contact me to say it was on fire. I never got a call from the police.
"When I got there it had been burning for 20 minutes. I just stood there and felt so helpless as there was nothing I could do.
"All the clubbers will be gutted about it. They were looking forward to coming back but at the moment we just can't tell. We are just weighing up the situation."
Bill Holden, chairman of Great Harwood Town, said: "I just can't believe it. The biggest problem for us is that the dressing rooms have gone. The showers and toilets are also gutted.
"In theory, we could operate without a sports bar, but without the dressing rooms and other facilities we will be unable to stage home matches. From what I have seen it looks like a car has gone through the front doors.
"I am going to sit down with the vice-chairman and other directors so we can decide what to do. Saturday's game against Congleton is definitely off. I think Monroes will have to be demolished. It is a terrible blow."
Assistant Divisional Offi-cer Gary Monk, of Lancashire Fire Service, said: "We have launched a joint investigation with the police and we are treating the blaze as suspicious.
"When the crews arrived the building was well alight and the flames had punctured the roof. We used an aerial platform ladder as the fire had spread along the roof under the cladding, which made it difficult for us to get at it.
"We believe the fire started in Monroes and spread to the sports bar. We did, however, manage to stop it from spreading to the surrounding buildings."
Detective Inspector Jim Elston, who is leading the police investigation into the attack, said officers were carrying our extensive house-to-house inquiries in the area and a forensic examination of the burned-out car was underway. He said they were also keen to trace a black Peugeot, possibly a 106, seen driving away from Monroes on to Lomax Street around 9pm.
Anyone with information is urged to contact police on 51212.