More than half of the country’s nightclubs have closed in the past 10 years. Is it down to fun-hating bureaucrats or have our nights out changed for ever? Whatever the reason we will miss them when they’re gone.
How can Britain possibly be going through a nightlife crisis? Our popular culture has never been more focused on dance music and getting smashed. Local news is overrun with bacchanalian images of wild town centres and police struggling to contain punch-drunk revellers. House music – once a counterculture heard only in raves and on pirate radio – has long been the sound of the British high street.
Music festivals have become as ingrained in our culture as Christmas – an annual trip to a field to take drugs and watch Chemical Brothers now a rite of passage on a par with leaving a glass of milk out for Santa. Just two months ago, a report described the booming health of Britain’s night-time economy – claiming the sector was worth £66bn. Six per cent of the UK’s domestic product is generated by night-time businesses, which employ around 1.3 million people, up by 500,000 from 2002.
Which is why some people were shocked this week when the report released to Radio 1 – from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), the group that represents venues – revealed that more than half of UK nightclubs have closed in the past 10 years. ALMR’s chief executive, Kate Nicholls said that in some towns ‘they are gone for good and we’re never going to get them back’. To those who have been trying to go clubbing in Britain it will not come as a surprise.
It might seem that this is a story of interest to a few druggy hedonists but the deterioration of Britain’s nightclubs has been ruthless. Clubs are the most vulnerable victims of gentrification because they are difficult to defend – seen by people who don’t go to them as a public nuisance.