ONE of the city’s favourite nightclubs has made way for a colossal new venue.

The Haunt, in Pool Valley, has been replaced by Chalk, which promises to be “bigger and better than the old Haunt”.

The Argus was given a first look before the venue opened in Brighton, a few doors down from the old venue, on Thursday.

When I arrive sawdust is flying, builders in hard hats are heaving planks, technicians are charging past with extension cables – and owner Matt Dimmack is giving us a tour.

The new venue is different.

>> SEE ALSO: The Haunt in Brighton changes its name before re-opening

First off, it’s enormous. The dancefloor itself is twice the size of the one in the old Haunt. It’s got a moveable bar and the room can shrink down for smaller nights.

It offers what Matt calls better “sidelines” – there are no columns in the way of the stage like the old venue, and you can see the acts from all angles.

The venue is so big Matt has had to install a huge new underground “macerator” to churn the excrement from all the increased traffic in the bathroom.

Above the main dancefloor, there is a lounge area decked out with green settees and its own bar. It’s got the feel of a VIP section – but it is adamantly not.

Matt said: “There is no VIP area at Chalk. It’s not in our ethos. We’re not interested in people splashing the cash and buying expensive bottles of champagne.”

“We’re an anti club. It’s not about getting £20 out of people then kicking them out. Chalk is for smiley people, not rich people.”

Matt said the smoking area outside the front of the club will be a little further along than it was at Haunt, and there will be state of the art loos to replace what he called “the worst club toilets in the world.”

Before we go any further, I’ve got to mention Matt’s outfit. It would be irresponsible not to: it’s formidable.

He’s wearing a two-piece jumpsuit with bright tin-cans printed across it. He wears a safety pin in his ear and his hair in a quiff. Around his neck is a massive chain and his knuckles are weighed down with rings.

As we walk, builders come up to ask him questions, and sound engineers beg for his attention. We ball through the huge new space like a long take in a film.

Matt opens doors. Upstairs, there are dressing rooms, studios, and plush bathrooms for the acts.

Downstairs, we descend into the echoing vaults of a former Chinese restaurant.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you,” Matt jokes, leading the way down into the dark cellars with his phone torch.

“We’re going to use the three floors underneath the dancefloor as rehearsal spaces and recording studios,” he said.

As we plunge deeper into the pitch black, the torch illuminates a sign or two in Mandarin.

We stop before a room-sized walk-in fridge-freezer. “You should see some of the stuff we pulled out,” Matt said. “There was a life-size Christmas reindeer, and hundreds of full sized fake cakes.”

We talk more about his plans. Matt expects to host around 250 shows a year in the new venue. His priority, he said, is live music.

He said: “We’re a live venue, not a club. The club is for financial reasons. It could never survive on its own purely as a live venue.

“It hasn’t ever been about profit here. It’s this love for live music.

“It’ll be just like The Haunt in that we put on alternative nights. We’re not the seafront clubs, and we’re not West Street.”

The new venue cost around £1 million to build.

Matt said: “We’ve built this place in six weeks. We’ve worked 24 hours a day for the last five days. We spent £150,000 just on air conditioning. I’m not joking. We’ve had to crane stuff on to the roof. It’s definitely going to be the coolest nightclub in Brighton.

“Then we spent about £200,000 on sound.”

Matt beckons to a technician, who explains the Martin Audio sound system is the same as the ones used at London’s Ministry of Sound and Fabric, scaled down for a medium-sized live venue.

Matt said: “The thing is, there’s no venue with this capacity in Brighton. Hundreds of acts miss Brighton because there isn’t a live venue the right size. On a usual club night we’ll have about 500-550 people, but we’ll have more for big events like freshers, Halloween, New Year’s and the opening weekend.

“Most of the music will be on the friendlier side of drum and bass.”

Events include gay night Polyglamorous, and planned acts for later in the year include Annie Mac and Clean Bandit.

Matt’s other ideas for the cavernous building include a coffee shop on East street, and a 350-capacity theatre.

There will be nine bouncers (or door staff, as Matt called them: “call them what you like but not to their face”, he said.)

Matt said: “It’s going to be a place where everyone can feel safe and secure. All of our staff are trained to deal with complaints about inappropriate behaviour in a non-patronising way.”

Matt is optimistic about the new venue, but is also a little wistful about the old Haunt.

He said: “Haunt was very romanticised. I know because I opened it.

“Listen, as a venue owner there is nothing better than looking out over the balcony and seeing hundreds of people with their hands in the air smiling. It’s bigger and better than the old Haunt. The idea was not just to replicate the old place, but to add to it.

“It’s Haunt – but not on a shoestring. It’s Haunt if we’d had the money to do what we wanted when we built it the first time.It’s honestly bringing a tear to my eye. Come on, let’s head up.”

As we left the basement, stepping over wires, hoovers, and ply boards, Matt said: “It’ll be a miracle if we open on time.”

I spoke with the door staff later that night. It did.