‘Substantial’ debts force iconic club to close

Layton Institute on Westcliffe Drive, Layton.

Layton Institute on Westcliffe Drive, Layton.

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ONE of Blackpool’s oldest social clubs is to close its doors.

Layton Institute will shut on Sunday after members were told it was no longer financially viable to keep the struggling venue open.

It was agreed to close the club on 
Westcliffe Drive – which had been due to celebrate its centenary later this year – following an emergency meeting.

Committee member Mark Luxton said: “The committee has done its utmost to save the club but in the end we felt we had to close rather than go on losing money week after week.

Mr Luxton refused to put a figure on the debt the club was in, but said it was “substantial”.

There is a hope the club can set up elsewhere.

Mr Luxton added: “We have looked at every single thing we can think of. Over the last 12 years we have managed to cut expenditure by more than 60 per cent but the fall in custom has counter-acted that.

“Layton Institute is a legendary venue and this is far from the end.

“We believe by selling the building now and putting some money aside, we can go forward for the future.

“People are sad but spirits were higher than expected following the meeting. We will now be looking at all the options.”

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Around 300 of the club’s 2,000 members attended the emergency meeting.

Earlier this year members agreed to sell the club’s bowling green for a housing development in a bid to tackle some of its debts.

But Blackpool Council’s planning committee turned down the application. Developer Wendy Fletcher warned at that time that without the revenue from the housing scheme, the club would close.

A revised application has since been submitted and is awaiting a hearing date.

Member Dave Earl, of Mansfield Road, Layton, said: “It’s a sad day, though I wasn’t really surprised.”

The lifelong member, 76, said he was worried for those who would lose a job as much as for those who were losing a meeting place.

He added: “It’s been a piece of the community. It’s not just the end of an era, it’s the amount of job losses too.”

The institute was earmarked for protected status as part of a local list of important buildings in the town being drawn up by the council.

The current building was constructed in 1925, but before that the club was born in a bungalow on the opposite side of Westcliffe Drive at the junction with Lynwood Avenue, which was demolished and replaced with a shop. In 1913, it is recorded members met in a loft above a stable.

The venue has played host over the years to famous entertainers including Paul O’Grady who brought his Lily Savage show to the club to be filmed to appear on television, and singer Joe Longthorne.

It was the last social club in Blackpool to have its own dedicated summer season of shows and held a Christmas show annually until last year.

Cathy Hurley, of Layton Traders Association, said the closure of the club would be a massive blow to the community.

She added: “We lost The Windmill pub not long ago, so it’s very, very sad to be losing the institute as well.

“It will be a real blow to the community. It has been here for 100 years and soon it will be gone.

“It has been a focal point for the community. But things like the recession and the smoking ban have hit a lot of places hard.”

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