'Youth culture is lost’

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Ghost towns: 30% of nightclubs have shut doors since the pandemic (Credit: Getty/ Flashpop)
Ghost towns: 30% of nightclubs have shut doors since the pandemic (Credit: Getty/ Flashpop)

Related tags Nightclub Finance

Britain has lost 30% of nightclubs since Covid, and the ex-owner of the UK’s longest running club has argued that Gen Z need to spark a cultural shift to revolutionise nightlife.

This comes after new data revealed Britain has lost 30% of nightclubs since Covid as consumers’ late-night habits evolve.

This net decline of clubs is more than double the 13% drop in all licensed premises over the same period, CGA and AlixPartner’s latest Hospitality Market Monitor revealed.

Ten years ago, Britain had nearly 1,700 nightclubs, but in June the total was barely half that at 873.

Despite the significant losses among nightclubs, the market has seen a growing popularity of high-tempo experience venues, and bar numbers have fallen by only 3.1% since March 2020 – a fraction of the 30% drop in nightclubs.

“Nightclubs are bored,” said Martin Murray, who previously owned the largest nightclub in the UK. “No matter what they do, they’re struggling to get the numbers, and it’s costing them 10 times more than it did in 2019.”

Cultural shift

But history is fated to repeat itself, and this is a story that Murray, a late night industry veteran, has heard before.

Once was in the mid-80s where operators feared the death of the town centre – with retail outlets and big supermarkets opening up out of town. Most nightclubs moved out of town, Murray added.

And then the 90s rave scene fuelled parties in fields and warehouses – revolutionising the nightlife industry. The situation today is similar, he believed, with warehouse raves all the rage and nightclubs leaving town centres.

In the same way, change will come, but it can’t come from operators, said Murray. Young people need something totally new – music unique to their generation that hasn’t been dominated by listeners their parents’ age.

“That’s what we’re waiting for,” he said – something as refreshing as acid house culture was in 1987. “Youth culture today is lost. They don’t know who they belong to.”

CGA by NIQ’s director for hospitality operators and food EMEA Karl Chessell said: "Covid hit nightclubs harder than any other licensed sector, and lockdowns were the final straw for hundreds of venues.

“But our research shows the late-night market isn't disappearing - it's just changing. Bars, pubs, competitive socialising venues and other new leisure concepts all now rival nightclubs, giving consumers a greater choice of venues than ever.

“Young adults remain eager for big nights out with their friends, and while clubs are still a part of their mix they are also open to alternatives that deliver memorable social experiences and good value."

Immersive experiences

Many, like Rekom’s chairman Peter Marks, say young people just don’t have the money to go out as much as they used to.

Murray’s response? “They forget the 80s. We had 3.5m unemployed, and if you were lucky, a 20-year-old got paid £17 a week. And he still went out four or five times a week.

“If the desire is there, they will go out regardless”. In the 90s, young people flocked to fields to create that culture, he said.

Murray added: “When change comes, I do not know, but it will come. There will be a new theme, a new concept, a new scene.”

AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith said the latest data highlighted just how severely the night-time industry has been impacted by both the pandemic, changing consumer behaviour and increasing competition in the late night market with consumers looking for more immersive experiences like competitive socialising.

He added: "We've seen a recent explosion of experiential bar and restaurant concepts across the industry, and with bars and other venues also now staying open later into the early hours, consumers have a wide array of experiences and options to choose from.

“As the industry becomes increasingly dynamic, these venues need to compete more than ever to become the late-night experience of choice, whilst keeping evolving consumer habits front of mind."

Related topics Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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