Social clubs facing battle to survive

SOCIAL clubs face an uncertain future as membership and volunteer numbers decline.

Tough new licensing laws and the impact of the smoking ban have added to the mounting troubles facing several long-standing establishments.

As a result, clubs which were once the heart of their communities are now slashing their opening hours and increasingly relying on private function hires to pay the bills.

Kay Hughes, secretary of Camelon Juniors social club, said: “We used to be one of the busiest places in the district. You would have to arrive at 6 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday if you wanted to get a seat.

“It is tough. The members just don’t seem to care any more. It’s soul destroying to see so few people coming.

“The start of the rot was the smoking ban. People just don’t want to stand outside. Provisions should have been made for private members clubs like us.

“I honestly don’t know what the answer is. Sunday afternoons are now the only time we’re busy. The young ones are just not interested in social clubs.”

Several premises, such as Grangemouth’s Rangers Supporters’ Club and the Docker’s club, were forced to shut in recent years.

Vandalism is also a problem. Bonnybridge Social Club was broken into in the early hours of March 12.

Joyce McAuslan, premises manager, told The Falkirk Herald that it was not the first time the venue had been targeted.

She said: “It’s so frustrating. We’re struggling enough as it is. We cannot afford to continually pay for repairs and upgrade our security systems – we have six cameras already.”

A spokesperson for Central Scotland Police said the case had been detected and that a 17-year-old had appeared in court from custody on March 14.

Mrs McAuslan added: “I’ve worked here for 23 years and I can’t remember times being as tough as this.

“Volunteer numbers are down, its the same people that keep the place open.

“We hold community nights and recently hosted a really successful sportsman’s dinner, but we need to get more people visiting on a regular basis.”

Ochiltree Social Club in Camelon last year took on a public house license in order to beat tough new restrictions placed on clubs.

John Sweeney, secretary, said: “New laws meant that we had to apply 30 days in advance if we wanted to host a public function.

“Restrictions were also brought in which meant that children had to vacate the premises by a certain time, which makes it tough to attract things like birthday parties.

“We took the decision to get a pub licence as those restrictions don’t apply.

“The major downside is that it costs more to renew each year and our rates bill has risen.”