Social club in Deepdale faces 'certain closure' after 47 years due to coronavirus lockdown

A social club in Deepdale said it might have to close for good as it struggles to pay its bills during lockdown.

Friday, 24th April 2020, 9:57 am
St Gregorys Catholic Club and Social Centre. Pic: Google

St Gregory’s Social Centre in Holme Slack Lane said it faces 'certain closure' after being hit hard during the ongoing lockdown.

The club, which has been serving Deepdale for 47 years, has been closed since restrictions came into force on March 21.

With bills still to pay and zero income, the club said its future is in the hands of the community.

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Club chairman Alan Hamilton has explained how the club has been left in a difficult position after it was told it was ineligible for emergency funding from the Government.

Preston City Council is offering grants of up to £25,000 to small businesses, including pubs, clubs, and other small firms.

But Mr Hamilton said the club cannot apply for funding because it does not pay business rates due to it being an annex to neighbouring St Gregory's Catholic Church in Blackpool Road.

He warns that the club could be forced to shut permanently before lockdown restrictions are lifted, if funds cannot be secured.

The club is now raising money to help it stay afloat during the ongoing pandemic.

"Weʼre raising £10,000 to save St Gregory's Social Centre in Preston from certain closure," said Mr Hamilton.

"Many of our club members are elderly and sadly widowed.

"The club is a vital opportunity for social interaction for which, many members living on their own, is a welcome respite from loneliness and good for their mental well-being.

"We closed up on Friday, March 20 to comply with the government announcement and hoped we may be able to survive in the light of the government’s support package to small businesses.

"The city council informed us the club was not eligible for the funding as we do not pay business rates as it’s exempt.

"We’ve written to the chancellor, the business secretary and our local MP, Sir Mark Hendrick, explaining the situation but have received no response as yet.

"We cannot afford to take out loans and very much doubt that we would qualify given we just broke even last year and only made a very small profit the year before.

"With no income and we still have bills to pay we desperately need help now or we will have to permanently close at the end of this month after 47 years of providing hospitality to the local community.

"I appeal to all our club members, customers and football fans who have enjoyed the club’s hospitality to make a donation and help save the club from closure."

Preston City Council said it has "no control or choice in the matter" and must adhere to Government guidance by only supporting those who pay business rates.

Councillor Matthew Brown, Leader at Preston City Council, said: "We understand this is a very stressful and difficult time for many people and businesses.

"The Government guidance is quite specific in confirming that businesses which are not ratepayers in the business rate system are unfortunately not included in the grant scheme, and therefore not eligible.

"As the club is considered exempt from rates by the Valuation Office, we have no control or choice in this matter and must follow the stringent Government criteria."

Preston MP Mark Hendrick said he had raised the club's concerns with the Government.

"When Mr Hamilton first approached me, I contacted two government departments," said Sir Mark.

"The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to which I received unhelpful replies.

"I raised further concerns to the Government to highlight the issues that social clubs like St Gregory's is facing as there appears to be a clear loophole in their COVID-19 business schemes.

"I have also made approaches to both Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council to seek financial assistance from them and I am waiting for them to get back to me."

You can donate to the club's crowdfunding campaign here.