HUGE bills have forced Portsmouth’s Labour Club to close its doors after more than 60 years.
The social club, which was based in the Unity Hall in Coburg Street, Landport, has been liquidated.
The move comes after club officials were told they owed around £20,000 to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for unpaid VAT.
They also received demands from the Financial Services Authority to pay a further £20,000 because of years of not correctly filing returns.
Current and former members have now spoken of their sadness after its bills – combined with falling visitor numbers – finally forced the club into bankruptcy.
Former chairman Derek Ware said there had been financial problems at the club which had got out of hand.
‘I’m not very happy about closing it,’ said the 78-year-old.
‘But we had no choice.
‘We still had 191 members, though many of them had stopped using the club. I’ve been going for 30 years and I’ve been the chairman for 15 years.
‘Everything was there and I still believe that with a bit of money it could be one of the best clubs in Portsmouth.
‘You have got a function room upstairs and a small room in the back. If someone were to buy it they could definitely make money out of it.
‘I’ve been playing the lottery but no luck so far.’
Club secretary Donna Woodman said they had been seeking a loan to keep the club going, but had been unsuccessful in finding one.
She said: ‘All our bills were always paid on time, we weren’t in any debt because of that.
‘It was because our annual returns to the Financial Services Authority and our VAT returns had not been filed properly, so we incurred a lot of fines.
‘We are all completely gutted.
‘I haven’t had this job long, although I’ve been member for nine years.
‘I’m really close to all the staff there and there are members that have been going since practically the day it opened.
‘We were hoping we could reopen but we couldn’t find anyone to help.’
The Portsmouth Labour Party owns the building and has been trying to sell it for several years.
Chairman John Ferrett said he was sad to see the club close but added that the party did not have the money to step in and help.
‘Unfortunately we are not in a position to do that because we do not have the resources,’ he said.
‘It is very sad. I grew up in Landport and the Labour Club is where I had my first drink.
‘But a lot of working men’s clubs, social clubs and old venues like this have had their day.’