A FORMER working men's club has gone bust and closed its doors after 96 years of trading.
Staff and regulars at the James Street pub in Oswaldtwistle were shocked and stunned at this week's sudden decision to close the premises and board them up.
The club was formed in 1909 in what was described as a "tin hut" and quickly became a focal point for the community, with up to 1,000 members registered.
But it hit financial trouble and in October 2003 it was bought by Red Leisure Ltd, which injected £250,000 and converted it into a pub.
Director Ken Nolan said: "It is a very sad day for myself and my fellow-director, Raj Singh.
"We have worked so hard and invested so much money to make the business work but the bank has just had enough and has run out of patience with us.
"Raj and I have put money in every month for the past two years, and the staff have tried desperately hard to improve it, but people's drinking habits have changed and that is out of our control.
"They can now buy cheap alcohol at supermarkets and drink it at home.
"People must understand that we took professional advice and the company was deemed insolvent, which put us under a legal obligation not to continue trading."
Mr Nolan added: "The receivers, DTE Leonard Curtis, are in complete control now and the pub will go up for sale.
"Anybody owed wages should contact them and they will be able to offer help and advice."
Red Leisure also owns the Oaklea on Whalley Road, Accrington, which is unaffected.
Mr Nolan added: "People with a function booked at James Street should contact the Oaklea and they can hopefully have their party there.
"We will honour deposits and provide a room free of charge to compensate for the inconvenience.
"I want people to know that we never received one penny from the business and we have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds of our own money.
"We will be paying for it for many years to come."
The pub was open for the last time on Monday night and was boarded up the following day.
Catherine Arthur, 71, of Melbourne Street, Oswaldtwistle, said: "I worked there for 28 years behind the bar and I have seen it deteriorate dramatically over the past few years.
"It is such a shame and people have been left upset and confused. I loved working there, it was part of my life.
"There is no loyalty to clubs any more. Younger drinkers will spend their money anywhere."
Raymond Hilton, 76, of Rowan Avenue, Oswaldtwistle, ran sequence dancing evenings at the club for 15 years with his wife Claire.
He said: "I am upset to see it go. It was a good place many years ago and holds many happy memories for me.
"But I did see this coming as it didn't improve when it was taken over.
"We didn't hear any rumours about what was going to happen.
"This was just dropped on us and we are shocked. It is the sad end of an era."
People affected can contact DTE Leonard Curtis on 0161 767 1250.