NIGHTCLUB bosses were reprimanded yesterday for widely publicising their opening night - despite not having an important council licence.

Escapade - formerly known as Mardi Gras - opens in Gladstone Street, Darlington, tonight after undergoing a £3m refurbishment.

But the club only received the go-ahead after a heated licensing committee meeting at the town hall yesterday morning.

Last year, Mardi Gras had applied for a variation to its public musical entertainment licence, but councillors deferred a decision because there were several matters outstanding.

The club closed earlier this year but, following the revamp, revised plans and a request for the application to be reconsidered were submitted to the council.

But councillors yesterday criticised the fact that the amended plans only arrived towards the end of last month - particularly as Escapade had been publicising its opening night throughout the town.

An electrical certificate approved by the council was also not in place.

Committee chairman Isobel Hartley told club chiefs: "There is a feeling that the council has been pressured by your owners, in that there has been a lot of publicity about the opening of Escapade.

"I received an invitation and tickets to the opening.

"I thought that was as chair of the licensing committee, or for all of the committee members, but I discovered that all the members of the council had received these."

Coun John Vasey said: "I'm slightly disappointed at a professional company sending out opening notices when the opening hasn't even been approved."

A spokesman for club owners Nexum Leisure apologised for the late arrival of the information.

He said: "The publicity for the opening has to be invested in the hope that the licence will be in place.

"There is a leap of faith by the operators of these sorts of premises that committees will accept that the work has been done."

The variation of the licence was granted, subject to conditions - including gaining the correct electrics approval - being met.

Work on the multi-million pound redevelopment of the nightclub started in June and the new bar, lounge and club areas will be unveiled over this weekend.

The revamped venue will create 40 part-time jobs.