THE oldest working men’s club in Leeds is under serious threat of closure.
Dwindling membership combined with the smoking ban and demolition of nearby tower blocks, means Holbeck Working Men’s Club, is now at risk.
It’s doors opened in 1877, making it today the longest serving WM Club in the UK.
Patrick Cochrane, assistant secretary, said: “We are in dire straits. We opened in 1877, which is etched on the window and we are the oldest club in Britain. Last year we lost £46,000 in sales, compared to the year before. We have literally lost hundreds of members in recent times, especially after the demolition of three tower blocks also the smoking ban has not helped us. Rumours are rife that we might have to close and people are always asking.
“The area is badly neglected. There is nothing around here anymore. No decent pub, no supermarket, only take-aways and a corner shop.”
The club at Holbeck Moor, just a couple of miles from the city centre, where bars can charge three times as much for alcohol.
Mr Cochrane, 72, of Holbeck, told how numbers had dropped from 837 to less than 300. Members pay just £3 a year.
“We have had to close on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons now as it is so quiet. We are used by local residents for meetings and sometimes we are like a community centre,” added Mr Cochrane.
He said older members still drop in to play darts and dominoes and they have two snooker teams and a ladies games section, plus a turn on a Sunday night. Meetings are held by the Royal British Legion and the Gaitskill Community Association.
Regular member Jo Lee, 79, of Beeston, who attends for meetings, said: “It’s a great place, but just a shame that members have dropped. Drinks are cheaper too.”
Neighbouring tower blocks of flats Holbeck Towers, Gaitskill Court and Gaitskill Grange, were demolished in March 2010, which meant the club lost several hundred members.
IN a bid to attract more people, the club has erected a smoking shed with seats, but many people prefer to stay at home.
It has a 300 seat concert room.