Hundreds of nightclubs are closing their doors

According to The Times, the number of nightclubs in the UK has fallen from 3,144 in 2005 to 1,733 this year. It said that tough planning laws and crime policies were to blame, while the smoking ban, licensing laws and a rise in competition from music festivals were also cited.

Kate Nicholls, the association’s chief executive, said the demise of so many clubs would leave Britain worse off “culturally, socially and economically”.

“Our nightclubs are being suffocated by overly restrictive planning laws and tax levies,” she said. “Surely part of the appeal of urban living are the nearby pubs, bars, restaurants and nightclubs where you can meet your mates. However, new town centre residential developments mean people can complain about noise from often long-established venues and licences can be restricted or revoked.”

Lohan Presencer, chief executive of Ministry of Sound, said that part of the reason was the growth in alternative venues. “I don’t think the number of people going clubbing at the weekend is any different to where it was 20 years ago, but I do think they are going to different places,” he told the BBC.

“One of those alternatives is festivals, which are increasingly big business when it comes to live music, and now the DJ scene too.”

There were more than 70 music festivals around the country last summer, up from fewer than ten a decade ago, and more are springing up all the time.

Some believe that the industry has been hit by a perfect storm of the smoking ban, the recession and new licensing laws allowing pubs and bars to open later. One nightclub operator said: “The traditional pub chucking-out time trade has been killed off.”

Another operator said that with pubs satisfying demand in most towns and cities, it was only the huge city centre destination dancing venues set over several floors that would prosper.

“The 1,000-capacity ‘hops’ are not sufficiently differentiated from the chameleon bars and pubs,” he said. “After a few weeks, people get bored of them.”

He said the traditional “boy meets girl” role of nightclubs was also being undermined by the growth in the number of online dating agencies.

However, the demise of so many venues has made life easier for many of those that remain. Peter Marks, chief executive of Deltic Group, Britain’s biggest nightclub operator with 57 venues, said the company — itself rescued from the failed Luminar Group — was “living proof that there is a future for well-run, well-invested nightclubs”.

Mr Marks suggested that many of the closures of recent years had been in towns and cities in the Midlands and north of England that become “mini-Detroits” during the recession.

“We’ve shut clubs in Rotherham, Bolton, Blackburn and Burnley in the past couple of years,” he said. “We didn’t want to shut them but nobody was going out. It wasn’t that we were losing trade to the pubs, because they were closing as well.”