Nightclubs were for snogging, fighting & finding new stars – stop them being turned into posh flats, says Pete Waterman
NIGHTCLUBS could soon be facing the last dance.
New figures reveal that one in five clubs shut permanently in the past three years after the sector was wrecked by Covid restrictions.
In disturbing news for party-goers, there are now just 1,130 venues remaining across England, Scotland and Wales — a 20 per cent drop since the first lockdown in March 2020.
Clubs were among the first businesses forced to close during the pandemic and the last to be permitted to reopen.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said the “culmination of pandemic debt, growing energy bills, workforce challenges, supply chain issues, insurance premiums and landlord pressures” have contributed to slowing ticket sales and visitor frequency at these venues.
But licensed late opening establishments were already struggling before the pandemic, with younger people preferring social media over a boozy night out.
It was revealed recently that youngsters aged 16 to 24 are turning off alcohol, with 26 per cent now fully teetotal.
And in March a survey showed three-quarters of the nation were still fearful of going out, with crowded dance floors an unattractive prospect for those still worried about contracting the virus.
The popularity of dating apps also means singletons are less inclined to venture out to a nightclub in the hope of pulling a new partner.
A whopping 50 per cent of those polled say they have never asked someone on a date in person, choosing to do so online instead.
And then there is the expense of clubbing.
Entry to top venues, such as Fabric in London, can cost anywhere between £10 and £25, and it is rare to pay less than £7 for a pint in a club in the capital.
Meanwhile, latest figures from the ONS show there are 176,000 unfilled job vacancies across the hospitality industry — double the number before Covid.
Long hours, low pay and poor job security are blamed for putting off jobseekers.
Businesses are being forced to run on skeleton staff, limit opening times or close as a result.
Last year the trade association said that staffing levels were 70 per cent lower than they should be and that a lack of security staff put people in “jeopardy”.
Michael Kill, NTIA chief executive, said it was high time the Government recognised the value of nightclubs.
He added: “Late-night economy businesses were one of the quickest sectors to rebound after the financial crash of 2008, harbouring an abundance of entrepreneurial spirit.
“Visitors to clubs also support local economies in secondary and tertiary purchases through accommodation, travel and retail.
“We must protect these businesses using all means possible, and recognise their importance before it’s too late.”
‘It’s good for soul to let loose,’ says Pete Waterman
WE really do need to keep on dancing. After coronavirus, we deserve one hell of a party.
So it makes me feel very sad that one in five clubs has shut up shop since the pandemic.
As a species we interact – we need entertainment where we do things together.
When Michaela Strachan and I were doing Eighties TV show, The Hitman And Her, we toured clubs and it was a real joy.
Our first show was at Mr Smith’s, in Warrington, in 1988.
It’s where Rick Astley made his name, and The Prodigy, Boy George and the Smiths played. It was also where Jason Orange was first spotted dancing.
All that history in one venue.
Back then, if you wanted a drink after 10.30pm you had to go to a club.
There was no internet dating or apps – you met your prospective partner on the dance floor.
People would dress up to go to the club – there were no jeans or trainers like today.
It is good for the soul to let loose and not be self-conscious.
Clubbing was part of British culture. It’s where I made my name in 1967 when I was given a residency with the Mecca Leisure Group and worked at the Locarno, in Coventry.
Being a DJ wasn’t a profession in those days. You were learning to run the place too – you had to clean the floors, change the towels, organise the cloakrooms.
It was a real apprenticeship.
For me, the heyday of clubbing was the Eighties.
When all-night TV started, I got home after a night at Mr Smith’s and there was a political discussion on at 1am.
I wanted to watch something fun so I said to David Liddiment, Head of Light Entertainment at Granada TV, “Why don’t you put a music show on at that time?”
He said: “OK, why don’t you do it?”
The Hitman And Her brought the fun, the chat, the silliness and bravado of what I had been doing in the clubs to the screen.
Then the TV company brought in Michaela as my co-host.
The former PM David Cameron told me he used to watch it. Princess Diana told me how dreadful it was.
I said to Di: “Ma’am, you can always switch off, you know.” She replied: “No, it’s compulsive viewing.”
Then the licensing laws changed and you didn’t need to go to a club to get a late drink, so nightclubs began to close.
I predict there will be a resurgence in clubbing because people will always want to dance together.
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