Fears for future of Wigan's last surviving Royal British Legion club
Fifty years since the club in Aspull first opened its doors, there are now fears they may remain closed when the current restrictions end.
The club on Sumner Street was “holding its own” before the Covid-19 outbreak, but two lockdowns have had a huge impact on its income.
Club steward David McMahon, who has run the club supported by wife Elsie for 20 years, said: “In my eyes I hope it won’t close, but it is looking that way. If things don’t improve, we will close.”
Before the pandemic, the club was a hive of activity, where older people could enjoy drinks and entertainment, and bookings could be made for birthday parties, christenings, funerals etc.
Schools, church groups and care homes held events there and a slimming group’s meetings took place.
It was also somewhere for ex-servicemen, with Mr McMahon pointing them in the direction of support if they needed it.
But the club’s income dried up when the first lockdown was imposed in March, with bookings cancelled and no-one allowed in for drinks.
And while Mr McMahon and his wife were furloughed, they only received 60 per cent of their income as the club could not afford to pay the rest.
Drinkers did return after lockdown, but numbers had to be limited to allow for social distancing and there were few bookings for functions as half the number of people were allowed to attend.
Now the club has had to close again and its funds are dwindling.
The pandemic also had an impact on the Poppy Appeal, which only raised £2,000 in Aspull compared to more than £5,000 last year.
An online fund-raising appeal has been launched by two members of the club to help make ends meet.
Mr McMahon, 61, said: “There’s a target of £5,000 and it’s been on for about three days and they have £1,275 so far. People are donating just to keep it open.”
Most people in Aspull have attended an event at the club at some point and it has a lot of support, with traders carrying out work for free for example.
It is hoped this community spirit will continue in the club’s hour of need.
Mr McMahon said: “It’s the last club. There’s nowhere else for the over 50s and 60s to go and enjoy a night out.”
Several raffles are also being organised by villagers.