Online dating and cheap supermarket booze are among the factors behind a steady decline in Blackpool’s nightclubs, it has been claimed.
The number of licenced clubs in the resort has gone down by a third since 2013, falling from 45 to 30 last year.
The resort is not alone – nationally nightclub numbers have dwindled by 16 per cent in that time – but changing habits have hit particularly hard.
Industry experts say the night-time economy is under pressure as cheap alcohol prices in supermarkets have encouraged drinking at home.
There were 30 licensed clubs in Blackpool in 2018, down from 45 in 2013, according to the latest Office for National Statistics figures.
The data includes nightclubs, and any social and working men’s clubs that are licensed to sell alcohol.
In Blackpool, the decline has been steady over the five-year-period, as there were 35 businesses in 2016.
A number of Blackpool’s nightclub owners have spoken about the changes the industry has faced.
Club Sanuk boss Peter Bowden believes nightclubs have to change with the times and says it’s a different generation now.
He said: “In my day you would go out and find a partner in a club but since iPhones were introduced you don’t really need to do that anymore.
“In regards to cheap alcohol at supermarkets, we have to have a minimum drink price at weekends.
“Young people have ended up drinking at home so we have to adapt to the changes.”
He also believes a lot of people were put off coming to Blackpool due to the Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) that Blackpool Police wanted to introduce in 2014.
The controversial proposal to ban alcohol sales in Blackpool after 3am were eventually thrown out by councillors.
Blackpool Police had applied for the order, which it said was necessary to combat booze-fuelled disorder in the town centre.
Mr Bowden said: “I was at the hearing for the EMRO and it was a load of rubbish. I think the damage was already done and what we have seen is people abandoning Blackpool in favour of places like Lytham and Poulton.
“In the old days you would never have gone to those places. Everyone came to Blackpool at the weekend.”
Mike Nordwind, who owns Blackpool’s biggest club Home HQ, doesn’t think cheap supermarket booze is to blame however.
He said: “Cheap alcohol is not a new thing. Even when we had the Syndicate more than 10 years ago the supermarket alcohol was a thing.
“What has been hurting us recently is the tramway roadworks on Talbot Road. Taxis couldn’t park up and it was a nightmare for pedestrians to navigate around.”
“The support we have had from our regulars has been brilliant though.”
He says the key to being successful in the resort is to offer something different.
Mr Nordwind added: “It depends on what kind of events you put on and what the club can actually offer. My son Mark is doing a tremendous job of running the club.
“There has been a demise around the UK for nightclubs. At one stage we had places such as The Palace, Illusions and Heaven and Hell in Blackpool which people would come especially to.”
He also believes the late night licence changes introduced in 2005 have hurt nightclubs as it allowed pubs and bars to stay open later, something a recent IbisWorld report highlighted.
Mr Nordwind added: “Because of the late night licence a lot of people don’t even come out until midnight. I don’t think it should have been introduced anyway.
“We have to open till 4am and sometimes 6am and all it means is the later you open the later they will come out.”
More nightclubs may disappear, according to market research group IbisWorld, as companies focus their efforts on expansion in other industries.
Ashley Johnson, industry analyst at IbisWorld, said: “Many consumers purchase cheap supermarket alcohol to drink before going out rather than buying more expensive drinks in clubs, constraining industry revenue.
“Efforts to revive alcohol sales by offering cut-price drinks have been unable to fully compensate for this fall.”
Across England, the number of nightclubs has fallen by 16% since 2013.
Martin McTague, policy chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “A major issue for this industry are the sheer number of burdensome regulations that are adding huge costs to businesses.
“The night-time economy is worth billions to the UK, but firms are being faced with strict licensing laws, rising insurance costs, ever-increasing business rates on top of burgeoning employment costs and other liabilities.”
The ONS rounds its figures to avoid identifying individual premises.