A “major” fire ripped through a building opposite the pier on Bognor Regis seafront, says West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.
Fourteen pumps were sent to tackle the blaze in the early hours, which is believed to have affected a derelict nightclub The Mud Club on The Esplanade.
Residents were evacuated to a leisure centre as crews faced “difficult conditions”, said the service.
People are asked to avoid the area.
About 30 residents were evacuated from flats adjoining where the blaze broke out, after crews were called just before 0400 GMT. Fifty firefighters have been helping tackle the blaze.
Lead officer Adrian Murphy said:
“This incident has taken place in the midst of a major storm and it was difficult to stand when we arrived on the seafront.”
“Our key priority now is to work with the displaced residents to get them safely home as soon as possible.”
Bognorian Adam Goldring said:
“A huge part of the UK clubbing scene is lost right there, although closed years ago looks like a goodbye to Empire for good.”
“Hope no one was hurt and everyone got out safely.Also fair play to all the emergency services working to bring it under control in those weather conditions.”