Former owner of Burnley nightspots Posh and Panama Joe's Mick Cookson on why late licensing is killing nightlife

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He was the man who put Burnley nightlife on the map.

His astute business sense, combined with a creative flair ensured that everything Mick Cookson touched turned to gold. The pubs and clubs he owned and ran for over 20 years are still talked about now. Indeed, tickets for a reunion to celebrate his nightclub, Posh, sold so fast that the hosts at Hidden venue in Burnley had to organise a second night to accommodate all those who wanted to go.

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“The Posh reunion is going to be absolutely fantastic,” said Mick. “The response to it has been phenomenal.”

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Mick Cookson, the former owner of POSH nightclub is concerned about the long licensing hours in Burnley Town Centre. Photo: Kelvin Lister-StuttardMick Cookson, the former owner of POSH nightclub is concerned about the long licensing hours in Burnley Town Centre. Photo: Kelvin Lister-Stuttard
Mick Cookson, the former owner of POSH nightclub is concerned about the long licensing hours in Burnley Town Centre. Photo: Kelvin Lister-Stuttard

The doors closed on Posh in 2014 at the height of its popularity when customers were still packing into the Ormerod Street club. But Mick felt that, after 14 years, it was time to move with the times and announced his plans for a brand new nightspot in the same location, a Polynesian themed venue called Rum Jungle.

The new club, housed in what was the former Yorke House nightspot, underwent a £200,000 refurbishment with a design based on a Vegas style hotel with an island style bar with specially designed glasses. It brought something quite unique to Burnley but that is Mick Cookson’s trademark. He ran the successful Panama Joe’s and Mean Cat Daddies in Hammerton Street.

Panama Joe’s featured on national and international television when the nightspot’s sister company, Ultimate Entertainment Agency, bought a collection of sumo wrestling suits to supply to the games and entertainment industry.

It was a craze that swept the entire nation and helped to put Panama Joe’s and Burnley on the map.

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Panana Joe’s also scored another “first’’ with the introduction of a Bucking Bronco that revellers were keen to try on Friday and Saturday nights. Mick also had the contacts to attract some of the biggest bands of the day to come and play at Panama’s including chart topping Five Star.

Mick’s own company, Mick Cookson Designs, has also designed and built clubs, bars and casinos all over the world including the iconic Funky Buddha in London’s exclusive Mayfair and several for NCL Cruiselines.

Rum Jungle went on to enjoy similar success but, with the advent of late licensing, which allows pubs and clubs to open virtually 24 hours a day if they successfully apply for it, Mick found he was having to open the club later and the number of people through the doors was dropping.

That’s when he decided to call it quits and it literally marked the end of an era for Burnley.

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A former DJ who learned his trade at the likes of former iconic nightspots Angels and Cat’s Whiskers, Mick believes that late licensing has contributed to decline in nightlife in many parts of the UK, including Burnley.

“I believe it has killed the town in many ways, “ said Mick. “Pubs and bars used to be packed at 8pm then everyone would move to the clubs until kicking out time at 3am.

“It was the perfect combination and it worked, it’s still like that in London now. You won’t find anywhere open after 3am unless it’s a private members’ club.

"How can having people leaving nightclubs at 6am bring any positives to Burnley?”

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People hitting the town want to feel safe and Mick firmly believes that late licensing has taken that away. Combined with bus companies offering cheap rates to travel to Manchester that entices people out of the town to city venues, Mick feels that Burnley nightlife faces an uphill struggle to get back to what it used to be.

“I know we all look back to the past and say times were better then, but they actually were. For me scrapping the late licensing is the answer to restoring Burnley nightlife to what it used to be.”

The big question is… would Mick step back into the bar business and maybe open Panama Joes re-born?

He smiles wryly and says ‘no’ so I would say watch this space!