ACCRINGTON'S night-life is dying on its feet as people desert the town's pubs and clubs in their hundreds.
And many could go out of business within months unless trade picks up, it was claimed this week.
Cheap supermarket booze, a trend towards drinking at home and livelier entertainment in Blackburn and Burnley were blamed for the crisis, which was highlighted at a meeting of the Town Centre Regeneration Board.
Even the traditional Sunday night circuit of the town centre pubs has now gone by the wayside, members heard.
Councillor Tony Dobson, leaseholder at the Arcade Bar, said trade was so bad at weekends that some businesses could go under within six months.
He said: "In the last 12 months, a lot of pubs have suffered anything between 30 and 50 per cent dips in trade."
"Sooner or later we will start to see people going out of business."
"It is only on Saturday nights that we get busy now. Fridays have gone substantially quiet and Sundays are completely out."
"It could be that pubs are out of fashion or because you get supermarkets selling cases of beer very cheaply."
"I think it is in everybody's interests that we have a vibrant night-time economy and we would appreciate any help that the board could offer us."
Other members suggested that late drinking hours at pubs in outlying towns meant people were less inclined to travel into Accrington for the night.
They also blamed the lack of alternative facilities such as theatres and restaurants.
Phil Miller, who recently opened The Stanley pub in Accrington, said although his business was doing well, others were in danger of closing.
He said: "The town has gone belly-up. Trade is really struggling and pubs are changing hands every 12 months or so. Things are only going to get worse."
Council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "I have been very surprised at how quiet the town centre has been."
"A vibrant night-time economy is important to any town but things are changing, and we have to see how we can adapt."
Mr Nigel Rix, director of the council's regeneration arm Hyndburn FIRST, said that one solution could be to promote a package deal in which tourists could spend the day visiting local attractions before enjoying a night in the town's pubs and clubs, with overnight accommodation.
Pub and club bosses we spoke to agreed that more needs to be done to attract revellers back into Accrington.
Phil Cork, assistant manager at Bailey's Bar in Church Street, said: "It is a growing problem and it isn't something that can be solved with a few promotions."
"I think it is a lot to do with the new bars and clubs that are opening in Blackburn and Burnley."
"Novelty doesn't wear off very quickly and we need to do something to hit back."
"Business is nothing like it was six or seven years ago."
"Sundays used to be brilliant in the town centre, Accrington was the place to be but now it is worse than a Thursday night. Fridays are also tailing off to next to nothing."
Margaret Butterfield, who recently took over the Castle pub on Whalley Road, said that there had been some nights when only six or seven people had been in. She agreed that customers were choosing to go to Blackburn or Burnley for nights out.
She said: "I've been trying to build business up and I've managed to get it a bit busier but Accrington has been terrible recently. I've heard the customers say they think the town is boring and that there's more choice in Blackburn."
A spokesman for Opium nightclub said they started off the year very successfully but business had tailed off during the Euro 2004 football tournament.
He said: "We do feel that the football has affected us. But we think it is a seasonal thing and we will be starting up more promotions to bring people back into the town."