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The deterioration of York's nightclubs

With the recent closure of Fibbers, Nouse Business editor Jerry McMichael takes a closer look at the emerging trend in the closure of York's night-time venues throughout the city.

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Image Credit: Emily Taylor

The return of students to York this term has been marked by
one very notable absence. Fibbers, an institution in York since 1992, closed
its doors at the Toft Green venue on 5 January for the very last time as the
site is set to be redeveloped into new offices and flats. Founded 27 years ago
by Tim Hornsby, Fibbers quickly established itself as the top live music venue
in York, hosting some of the biggest names in the British music industry
through-out its tenure, including the Killers, Coldplay and Stereophonics to
name a few. The closure of the venue will be felt acutely by students and
residents alike, but the closure of Fibbers, although significant, is only one
instance of a new emerging trend in York’s night-time economy.

The last term has seen the closure of Mansion and with
further rumours that Salvos’s current venue on Rougier Street is set for
redevelopment as well, York’s student nightlife truly seems to be dwindling
away by the day. York City Council have defended the series of redevelopments
underway up on the grounds that they are needed in order to meet York’s
‘critical’ under supply of ‘good-quality’ housing and professional office
spaces. However, with two new developments and the potential of a third to be
built, all on existing nightclub venues, there seems to be a conscious,
calculated effort on the part of York City Council to remove nightclubs across
York, perhaps in an effort to create a more ‘sanitised’ vision of the city.

It seems illogical, however,
that York, a city with a population of around 150,000 people of which students
account for 16 percent, should wantonly be aiming to radically reduce the
number of night-time venues when entertainment and hospitality are the city’s
largest employer and source of revenue to the city council (excluding council
tax). The question, however, is not why there has been such a significant-cant
closure in number of venues, but which venues are closing and to which
demographic these venues target. The answer is regrettably, in-variably
students.

While there has been
an evident loss in the number of student nightclubs, bars, pubs and restaurants
are thriving in York, well above the UK average with an estimated 365 pubs
within the city walls alone. York is well known as a northern hen and stag
weekend utopia, particularly it would appear to our Geordie friends. It would
therefore not be beyond reason to suggest York’s night-time economy is not
dwindling, but merely reconstructing its target demographics to accommodate
young professionals and weekend revellers, rather than the permanent student
and resident population of the city. While arguably more profitable to target
such demographics, directing York’s night-time economy away from students is
both a dangerous and volatile move on the part of York businesses. It is not an
over-reach to state that universities and student unions should be concerned
with the quality of club-night events and venues in their respective cities as
it can and does play a significant factor for many students in their university
choices and applications.

If York student venues continue on this trajectory, the
University could face genuine is-sues with trying to fill course places which
will ultimately only further contribute to the problems surrounding on of entry
requirements for university courses. YUSU has been quick in their response to
coordinate a new official Thursday club night with York Par-ties, with Student
Activities Officer Ollie Martin announcing just two days after Fibbers’s
closure on 7 January that the official Thursday night will now be hosted by
Kuda. While a short-term fix, in the long run Fibbers still requires a new
venue but as Ollie Martin states in his post, “there’s talk of a new Fibbers
but I’m honestly skeptical they’ll find anywhere new, certainly not anytime
soon”, raising questions of how permanent an addition Kuda Thursdays will be to
the York Parties time-table.

The loss of Fibbers represents yet an-other closure of an
iconic York venue and further, the loss of York’s leading music venue with no
announcement yet of a replacement. But an even more salient concern is the loss
of yet another student night club raising questions of the long-term future and
direction of York’s entire nightlife scene, by the threat of continued closures
and redevelopments by York City Council to nightclubs in the city. If the
university and YUSU don’t interject on this issue soon, students could be faced
with further venue closures and a stagnation of York’s night time economy,
which will only further detract from the appeal of York.

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