UK Clubbing is an industry in rapid decline. Not just in London, but across the country.
In the past 5 years clubs have shut alarmingly, and in the last decade they’ve dropped from 3,144 in 2005 to just 1,733 last year. That’s a 45% reduction. The loss of nearly half of the UK’s clubs in just 10 years!
Iconic clubs like Glasgow’s Arches have gone. London’s Cable, Plastic People, Fabric and The End. Liverpool’s Cream. Birmingham’s Air and Gatecrasher. Liquid in Peterborough. Brighton club Digital and the Kings Road arches also extinct. None of this is new news, and this certainly won’t come as a shock to those who are aware and passionate about the industry. But, are councils and authorities the main reason to blame here? Has the recent generation of clubbers also contributed to this declination? Or is clubbing quietly drifting out of fashion?
A Drop In Demand
Clubbing is a competitive industry and clubs sell “an experience”. A decade ago this was ever apparent. Poor clubs would close and new owners took over. The 2007 smoking ban and the 2008+ recession arguably generated less demand for clubs.
Fast forward to 2016 and investment is at an all time low. Experiences are still being offered, but these are in vacant warehouses and bespoke one off only venues, such as art galleries, prisons and churches. Apparently, there are no pulls to invest in the clubbing industry? There are too many common challenges such as regulation, licensing, planning, business rates and fear. Fear of being closed down by Councils, who are not interested or supportive either. And this is why the Night Time Industries Association exists.
10 years ago, 18 – 25-year old clubbers had choices – a somewhat indecisive nightmare. Most clubs had queues down the street and around the block. In 2016, 18 – 25 year olds still have choices, but they involve their local pub, bar or even pop-up food areas. Later licensing hours have made the night time industry more competitive and more dynamic. Most bars now have a good, well experienced DJ and no queues (unless you live in London or Manchester) and no admin fee. But this is a double edged sword, as later licensing hours has removed a nightclub’s main competitive advantage.
Clubbing Is Not Cheap
Clubbing is not a cheap experience. It’s costly. Ticket prices alone can cost up to £50. Drinks vary from place to place, one night out can easily set you back between £100 – £200. If we look elsewhere, we can hop on a plane and fly to Europe, where clubbing is cheap and more affordable – places like Berlin, Budapest and Prague. Book in advance and you’re able to have an exciting weekend away compared to one night out in the UK (and that usually includes accommodation and flights!).
Clubs make their money by selling booze and entrance fees. Yet with low disposable income affecting 18 – 25-year-olds (who much of the clubbing industry relies on), who can blame those customers for wanting to save up year round for a festival or sitting in a bar with a wider selection of drinks.
There are also those 18 to 20 somethings who simply aren’t interested in clubs or bars. And then the health conscious lot who view raving as attending Morning Glory / Yoga parties. We also have the Instagram generation who are too busy documenting their lives on social media.
Whats for the future?
It’s sad to see that all of this creates a cocktail of destruction for our clubs. A dying, tarnished industry with not much hope, support or custom. If the UK becomes a ‘bar haven’ like Australia or New York, then so be it. The next generation of 18 – 25 year olds may have to imagine (or be told) what they’re missing. And for those who attended clubs pre 2015? We may be considered as the lucky ones who will say “I remember when” and “back in my day …”
Written by Kyle Jones.