The slow and lingering death of the high street as we know it has long been a popular cause for concern. While this has largely affected retail premises with more and more people choosing to either shop online or head to out-of-town centres, there is another sector that’s no stranger to being abandoned.
There once was a time when virtually every town in the UK had a bingo hall in a prominent position on or near its high street. Not only was this a major centre of entertainment, but it was also an important place for people to socialise and relax for an evening.
But times changed and bingo found itself being left out in the cold as more modern and engaging forms of leisure activity started to take over. So, just as the arrival television had emptied many of the cinemas that were then converted into bingo halls, it has been the latter’s turn to face widespread closures.
However, there have been a number of recent examples of these buildings being re-purposed in different ways and which could represent some very good news for town centres.
Due to the large size of many of these buildings and their architectural merit, most typically in the art deco style, the most common transformation is into residential properties. But some are also being put to other uses. Two examples are The Grand in Bournemouth and The Carlton Bingo and Social Club in Liverpool. The former is in the process of being converted into a gym, while the latter will become an indoor car wash and valeting centre with a convenience store attached.
All of these transformations are set to help the retail environment in a number of ways. For example, even bingo halls that are being converted into apartments will bring more residents into the town centre – likely customers for the independent stores that are also breathing new life into these areas.
It could also be that bingo might prove to be a solution for landlords of some of the currently unoccupied retail premises in the UK. In the last few years, online bingo has steadily started to gain in popularity. One only has to look at some of the best new bingo sites to get an idea of why this should be. With generous welcome bonuses, new ways to play and even chat rooms so players can socialise, they have struck a chord with a whole new generation of players.
In turn, this has led to a resurgence in the live game with many nightclubs starting to put on bingo party nights complete with karaoke, dance-offs and wacky prizes. So, it’s not inconceivable that a whole new kind of bingo venue could be born. If this also involved taking over some previous retail premises it would be good news for high street regeneration, not to mention a whole new kind of night out to help keep town centres alive.
So it’s eyes down, and let’s hope for that transformation which, many agree, is long overdue.