A club which has been a vital part of the Fylde social scene for decades will close its doors for the final time this weekend.
Dramatically dwindling membership numbers have been blamed for the demise of St Annes Conservative Club, which will shut for good after a farewell party on Saturday evening.
Fylde MP Mark Menzies has called the impending closure ‘sad news’ and has pledged to do anything he can to help, but the club’s secretary-treasurer June Wood said: “It just isn’t financially feasible to carry on”.
Mrs Wood has held her post for more than 20 years and has witnessed first hand the change in social habits which has seen membership of the club fall from thousands in the 1990s to little more than 100 now.
“It seems to be a sign of the times and it is very sad,” she said. “When I arrived 21 years ago, membership was around 5,000 and now it is down to just 130. New members aren’t coming through and the older members aren’t as inclined to go out in the evening as they once were.
“It’s a sad sign of the times which is affecting many clubs and other similar premises.
“It’s not just us but the level membership has reached just isn’t enough to carry on and we have had to take the decision to close.”
Mrs Wood, who is part-time, full-time steward Mike Gregson, who has held the post for five years, and two part-time bar staff will lose their jobs with the closure.
The club, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1997, moved across Clifton Drive North to the former Manhattan Hotel premises from its long-time landmark home on the corner of St George’s Road seven years ago
The former premises, in a distinctive Porritt-style buildling, were bulldozed to make way for rhe Aldi supermarket now on the site and the club was linked with a move to various potential new homes, including the former casino site on St Annes seafront, before settling in at the former Manhattan Hotel seven years ago.
At the time the move from the long-time base close to Ashton Gardens was mooted, membership was down to around 600 and Mrs Wood added: “It’s not a case of membership being badly affected by the move. The decline had already set in by that time. It is all about changing social habits.”
Mr Menzies said: “This is very sad news which I know will be disappointing for a lot of people in Fylde.
“Obviously the club has a great history in the area and the old building on Clifton Drive North was a cornerstone of St Annes in its day and extremely well used.
“While their ties to the Conservative Party may not be as strong as they once were, I know that a lot of club members around the country are still party stalwarts and St Annes is no different.
“I have attempted to contact the club to see if I can assist in any way with the current situation and will continue to do so.”
Coun Sue Fazackerley, Fylde Council leader and a long-time Conservative representative for St Annes’ central ward, said: “I am sad to hear this, although I have to say that the link between the Conservative Club and the Conservative party is rather tenuous, so this closure is not particularly a blow for the party.
“But I have many happy memories of the old building and of ward meetings we held there and I am sorry to hear that the club is to be no more.”
St Annes town mayor Coun Vince Settle, a Heyhouses ward representative for the Conservatives on both Fylde and St Annes town councils, said: “I am sorry to hear this but as well as changing social habits, I suppose it is symptomatic of there being so much competition for people’s money when they go out these days.
“The former building across the road from where the current premises are was a landmark in the town for many years and I will be sad to see the club close its doors for good.”
Ironically, Saturday’s farewell party has long been a 100-capacity sellout.