The premises had formerly been used as a warehouse to serve the Covent Garden wholesale fruit and vegetable market. In 1970 they were converted to a late-night bar called the Chaguaramas Club. At that time it was owned by record producer Tony Ashfield, who had several hits with '70s reggae star John Holt, with whom he formed a company called Chaguaramas Recording Productions, probably after Chaguaramas Bay in Trinidad.
The Roxy was started by Andrew Czezowski, Susan Carrington and Barry Jones. The main entrance was on street level where you would walk into a small bar and seated area. Downstairs there was a small stage, bar and dance floor. The intimacy of the club had a feel to it similar to the Cavern Club in Liverpool where the Beatles had performed early on in their career.
In December 1976, Czezowski, Carrington and Jones organised three gigs at the Roxy. They financed the venture with borrowed money (Jones, a musician, pawned his guitar to stock the bars, and hire sound equipment, etc.). The first show, on 14 December, was Generation X, a band Czezowski managed. The second on the following night was the Heartbreakers. The third, on 21 December, featured Siouxsie and the Banshees and Generation X. However, it was the Clash and the Heartbreakers that headlined the official gala opening on 1 January 1977 which was filmed by Julien Temple and finally screened on BBC Four on 1 January 2015 as The Clash: New Year's Day '77.
In 1977 Harvest Records released an album Live at the Roxy WC2, featuring some of the regular acts who performed there, that made the top 20 in the UK. A further live album was released in May 1978 of lesser known acts such as the UK Subs, Open Sore, Crabs and the Bears. Since the late 1980s, a number of previously unreleased recordings of Roxy gigs from the late 1970s have been released as live albums including the Buzzcocks (Trojan, 1989), the Adverts (Receiver, 1990), X-Ray Spex (Receiver, 1991), and the Boys (Receiver, 1999).
The anarcho-punk band Crass featured the Roxy as the subject of one of their most well known tracks, Banned from the Roxy.
The doors of the club were shut for the last time in April 1977. Today the site is the flagship store for the swimwear brand Speedo.
DJ Letts recorded many of the band performances in 1977 at the Roxy, some of which were released the following year as The Punk Rock Movie.
On Tuesday 25 April 2017, a memorial plaque was unveiled at first-floor level marking the site of 'The Roxy: legendary punk club, 1976-78'. Andrew Czezowski and Susan Carrington, the founders, and members of the original bands attended before an exhibition of photographs taken during the club's heyday, curated by local historian and artist Jane Palm-Gold, opened a few doors away.
Bands that played at the Roxy in its first 100 days
Aside from four bands mentioned above in connection with the December 1976 gigs and the gala opening, other bands that appeared there in the first four months of the club's life (January 1977 to April) included:
- Generation X
- The Adverts
- The Boys
- Cock Sparrer
- The Cortinas
- Wayne County & the Electric Chairs
- The Damned
- The Drones
- The Jam
- The Lurkers
- The Models (formerly "Beastly Cads")
- Johnny Moped
- The Only Ones
- The Police
- The Rejects
- Sham 69
- Siouxsie and the Banshees
- Slaughter & the Dogs
- The Slits
- The Stranglers
- Subway Sect
- The Vibrators
- Cherry Vanilla
- X-Ray Spex
- Paul Marko (2007). The Roxy London WC2: a punk history. Retrieved September 17, 2011.
- Vincent Dowd (January 1, 2015). "Julien Temple on The Clash: 'The energy of punk is really needed now'". BBC News. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
- "The Clash: New Year's Day '77". BBC Four. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
- Coon 1977.
- Thompson, D. (2000) Punk, Collector’s Guide Publication, Ontario, Canada, p. 61 - 62;