It's true about those old places having character.
Find the same is also true about music venues...throughout the late 90's until it was knocked down, I used to frequent the Astoria 2/Mean Fiddler (the medium sized of the 3 venues within the Astoria venue at the top of Charing Cross road in London). I worked close by so it was almost a second home for us.
And yes, it was grotty, paint peeling off the walls, not that clean, dark, dingy...but it had tons of atmosphere and was a proper rock venue. Saw hundreds of rock and prog bands there over the years.
A lot of regular people went as well,so it was a great get together with like-minded souls, and I made a lot of friends over the years.
Gone now, and not many of those types of venues left these days sadly...