End of The Empire

A Blackpool bingo hall which has been in the hands of the same family for 46 years will not re-open after lockdown.

The Empire Bingo Club on Hawes Side Lane has now closed permanently with the building, which dates back to 1929, now earmarked for demolition.
Owners and staff have spoken of their dismay at the decision, but say it is the right time to pull the curtain down at the venue which started life as a cinema and employed nine staff.
The impact of Covid-19 has proved the final straw, with owner Elaine Bottomley and her daughter Linzi saying the age of the building makes it too difficult to introduce social distancing measures while keeping the business viable.
In a statement they said:  “The Empire Bingo has been a strong and sturdy social hub for thousands of people over the past 46 years.
“With the same family running the bingo club it created a safe space for many people.
“The customers and staff have always been the driving force behind the bingo successfully owned and run by Elaine Bottomley.
“The Empire has sailed through storms and calm waters, however the tide has now turned and the Empire is moving in a different direction.
“We would like to thank our members who have stuck by the club in the best of times and the worst of times. We wish them all the happiness and we hope they hold onto the best of memories as we will do as a family. “
The closure marks the end of an era after Elaine’s late husband John Bottomley had started off running bingo clubs including the Apollo on Waterloo Road in the 1960s, and another club in Marton on the site now occupied by Aldi at Oxford Square.
Linzi said : “My mum always gave the business that extra care, which is why it operated for so long.”
Bingo caller Howard Batley, who worked at the Empire for 19 years in two stints, added: “It is very sad news but unfortunately times have changed.
“Our customers were like our family. We were on first name terms and went the extra mile for them. One lady had been coming here for over 40 years.
“But a small club like this just couldn’t survive with the social distancing measures which are needed now.”
An application has  been lodged with the council to demolish the building, which is expected to make way for new homes.
In 2018 planning permission was granted to convert the venue to 14 flats, but that has proved an unviable option due to the age of the property.

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