Nearly half of nightclubs in Britain have shut their doors in the last decade as young adults abandon the rave scene, according to industry figures.
In 2005, there were 3,144 clubs across the UK compared to the 1,733 that stand today, according to the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), an organisation which represents venues.
Classed as a place meant for the “late night entertainment of music and dancing”, the club scene in the UK has been recognised as one of the most vibrant and progressive in the world, attracting tourists from across the globe.
However, figures show a dramatic decline in the number of successful nightclubs and experts predict the fall will leave the UK worse off “culturally, socially and economically”.
Some industry professionals believe the drop is due to a rise in the number and popularity of music festivals, whereas others claim the smoking ban, a lack of policing and ‘a crackdown on fun’ is responsible.
Kate Nicholls, the CEO of AMLR, believes our late night economy feels more ‘clubbed to death’ than celebrated because of planning tension and a struggle for licences.
“Late licences are routinely met with opposition, pubs and clubs are routinely blamed for anti-social behaviour and local authorities have the power to tax and stifle late-night licensed businesses,” she said.
“Established venues now find themselves at odds with residents, battling against noise complaints and fighting unreasonable planning laws.
“We seem happy to celebrate nightclubs in our art galleries, but barely able to tolerate them on the high street.
“Our historic music venues and thriving nightclubs are increasingly finding themselves at risk of closure because of the widespread development of neighbourhoods, planning restrictions or voracious local authorities.
“Although our music venues are lauded as some of the finest in the world, they are finding it increasingly difficult to remain open.”
Jak Wellard, a 20-year-old club DJ from Kent, echoes AMLR’s claims.
“There are a number of factors at play but ultimately authorities are making it harder for people to have fun,” he said.
“So many popular nights have been cancelled because we are told they can’t police it, so people are rebelling and going to house parties, disused warehouses or whatever they can find.
“Why go to a club and see one resident DJ when you can go to a festival and see seven or eight?”
Ministry of Sound is an iconic name in clubbing, where many of the great DJs of the 1980s and 1990s made their names.
But its boss, Lohan Presencer, agrees that UK clubbing is in a “challenging place” in 2015.
“I don’t think the number of people going out at the weekend is any different to where it was 20 years ago, but I do think they are going to different places,” he said.
“With the advent of later pub opening hours, the smoking ban, student tuition fees and the squeeze that a lot people are under financially since the recession, I think people are finding different ways and different places to go out.”
In the West Midlands, the number of nightclubs has dropped from 157 to 108 in the last ten years.
In Essex the number has dropped from 79 to 59, and in East Sussex and West Sussex – including Brighton, renowned for its dynamic nightlife – the number has fallen from 194 to 118.
Dave Thomas, 29, a DJ in Redcar, Teesside, said: “The whole pub trade and leisure industry has fallen on its knees because of the smoking ban.
“People don’t want to pay top dollar to get into a club they then have to stand outside of when they want a cigarette.
“Although they are increasingly popular, I don’t think festivals have any type of bearing on the club scene.
“Going to a festival requires planning and often travelling, as well as a lot of money.
“You can buy 24 cans for five per cent of the cost of a night out now, so people are staying at home where they can do as they please, instead of going to a club.”
However not everyone in the industry believes the nightclub is dead.
Ben Prada, 34, DJs all year round in UK, Turkey and some parts of EU.
“I’ve witnessed first-hand the closing down and opening of clubs and I think it’s a cycle,” he said.
“The cycle follows the current trend, which goes from festivals, to partying abroad – people will do whatever everyone else is doing.
“I’m confident the trend will run full circle again, bringing life back to newer clubs.”
By Lucy Clarke-Billings