UK nightclubs closing at ‘alarming rate’, report suggests

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

According to a recent report, it is not just LGBT night life which is dwindling, with nearly half of the UK’s nightclubs have shut their doors in just ten years.

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) – which represents the country’s clubbing venues – says that in 2005 there were 3,144 clubs, but this figure is now down to 1,733.

Arguably, some of the worst effected venues are LGBT clubs – with an increasing number closing throughout the UK – including the legendary Madame JoJo’s in Soho, which had its licence permanently revoked last year, after fifty years of trading.

Manbar, the popular gay venue on Charing Cross Road, London, also ceased trading in January.

Recent social trends – such as a change in lifestyle – and the effects of the financial crisis have “played their part”, but the clubbing industry is also being “suffocated” by overly restrictive planning laws and taxes, says ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls, who said in some towns “they are gone for good and we’re never going to get them back”.

She also warns the increased closures will leave the UK worse off “culturally, socially and economically”, saying a club is a place meant for “late night entertainment, usually music and dancing”.

There are also concerns from club representatives about the effect the closures will have on youth employment.

The ALMR say that last year the venues it represents “generated 37,000 new jobs with over 80% of these for 18-24 year olds”.

Ms Nicholls says that increased planning and licensing rules are the main reasons for some of the closures. She also claims that it has become far too easy for neighbours to complain if they live nearby – even if the venue was there before they moved in.

“People want to have their cake and eat it. [If] you want vibe and to live in a cool area, then you need the other, edgier side of it,” she said.

A government spokesperson told BBC Newsbeat: “We know the important contribution the sector makes to our economy and the nation’s cultural landscape.

“The current regulations strike a fair balance between making sure we have music entertainment for the public and preventing crime and disorder, whilst keeping the public safe.”

In June, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson backed protecting one iconic London venue – the Royal Vauxhall Tavern – from closure, describing it as a “lynchpin” of the LGBT community.

The RVT is known as one of the oldest gay venues in London, and is renowned as the place where Lily Savage, Paul O’Grady’s comedy alter ego, made her name.

The local community raised concern after the pub was sold last October to an Australian company, putting its future in doubt amid redevelopment fears.

“The RVT’s unique contribution to the vibrancy of London life should also be celebrated,” he said.

“It is a beacon that is known around the world and must be made a listed building so it can continue to shine for years to come.”

Paul O’Grady has also written to Historic England to back the proposed listing, saying: “I consider the venue to be my very own school of dramatic art.”

Noting the closure of Camden’s Black Cap, Soho’s Madame Jojo’s and Hackney’s Joiners Arms, he writes that the pub “is now one of the few remaining venues to showcase new and old talent every week”, and “should be offered protection to withstand today’s developers”