Online dating and cheap ale is hurting Wigan's nightlife

Tony Callaghan owner of Fifteens in Standish
Tony Callaghan owner of Fifteens in Standish

Internet dating and shop-bought beer cheaper than water are just two reasons why more pubs and clubs are closing than opening, a Wigan expert said today.

Tony Callaghan, whose own InnTheBar empire has been enjoying a trend-bucking expansion, was commenting after latest Office for National Statistics figures showed that the number of “nightclubs” in the borough fell from 60 to 45 between 2013 and 2018.

Even though a lot of new pubs are also springing up, a lot of these aren’t lasting that long and nationally the figures are going down by between 20 and 30 hostelries a week.

More nightclubs may go, 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.”

A recent IbisWorld report highlights that licensing changes in 2005 have allowed pubs and bars to stay open later, taking nightclub customers.

Mr Callaghan said that businesses need to recognise that times are changing.

He added: “It’s hard to know what a nightclub constitutes these days because since the 24-hour opening deregulation pubs can stay open just as long as places where people go to dance.

“One thing that has changed though is that nightclubs were once a place where boys and girls went to ‘pull’ after a night out on the town.

“These days they don’t need to leave home because they can all do it on their phone at the press of a button and someone turns up on their doorsteps!

“Then there is the availability of very cheap alcohol in supermarkets. If you can buy beer that’s cheaper than water then the tendency becomes to pre-load and only turn up at the clubs late.

“With so many pubs staying open into the early hours, then what we might categorise as traditional nightclubs are less able to charge an entrance fee as they used to, unless they have live acts on, so that affects them too.

“Add into this the fact that more younger people are shunning alcohol in a bid to be healthier and more people taking trains into cities and clubs and pubs have a lot to contend with.”

Among clubs to have gone in Wigan in recent years are Maxime’s, Liquid, Chicago Rock and Walkabout. Mr Callaghan has, in fact, opened more pubs, saying he can only credit this with casing a particular area so that a new outlet has a personal touch with staff the locals can get to know and are aware of the area’s heritage.

Across England, the number of clubs has fallen by 16 per cent 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.”

To avoid identifying individual clubs, the ONS has rounded the numbers.