‘Devastation’ as Leeds social club is evicted after 128 years

Members outside Libby's @37 - the former Garforth Liberal Club
Members outside Libby's @37 - the former Garforth Liberal Club
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Bosses of a Leeds social club that has been forced to close after 128 years say they are “absolutely devastated”.

Staff spent much of Monday and yesterday clearing furniture out of Libby’s @37 – the former Garforth Liberal Club – after the owners filed an eviction notice last week.

It followed a dispute with the landlords, who took over last year, over alleged financial problems.

The management committee had been hoping for a last-minute reprieve, but told members who turned up for the club’s last night on Sunday that there was no way back.

Secretary Diane Warrington said: “It was terrible, everyone was in tears, we’re absolutely devastated.

“People were telling us they would give us money to keep us open. I’m completely floored by it. We’ve spent the last couple of days clearing out tables and chairs and fridges. It’s heartbreaking.”

Garforth Liberal Club was founded in Main Street in 1886. It ran into financial difficulties and was in debt to a brewery and the Inland Revenue when the building was bought by a consortium of four investors in January of last year.

Initial plans to turn half of it into a pub while the other half remained as a club never came to fruition, but the club, which had about 400 members, continued to host social events, functions and charity fundraisers.

Its committee paid a “peppercorn rent” of £4,000 a year.

But problems developed after a disagreement with the landlords about the payment of business rates.

One of the landlords, Paul Sykes, said further issues arose when a letter was sent to their solicitor alleging that they were responsible for damaging the club’s alarm system.

Mr Sykes added: “Relations between ourselves and the club deteriorated, as has the financial situation for the club.”

He said there were “no future prospects” for the club adding that there was no alternative but to close it and attempt to sell the building.

Garforth and Swillington councillor Andrea McKenna said the news was a blow for the community.

She added: “I don’t know the ins and outs of what has happened, but I’m very sad to see it go. They were working well with the local community and did a lot of good for charity.”

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