Huge repair bill closes Norwich city centre Mecca Bingo for good
PUBLISHED: 11:23 30 April 2011
Archant Â© 2011
Staff and customers have told of their sadness after they were told an historic city centre bingo hall would close for good because the repairs needed to the 1930s building are too expensive.
The Mecca Bingo in All Saints Green, opposite John Lewis, closed earlier this month after engineers discovered serious structural problems with the building.
The closure was orginally a temporary measure, but now the Rank Group, which runs Mecca Bingo, has said it has taken the difficult decision to close because the repair bill is so high.
The 27 staff at the former cinema have been told they will lose their jobs, but Rank is trying to see if it can find them alternative posts at its other bingo halls in the region.
And it will be a blow to many of the older people who say their trips to the hall are their only outings and who clearly have a great affection for the staff who work there.
The closure of the bingo hall throws the future of the building, which used to be the Carlton cinema and then the Gaumont cineam, into doubt, with Rank saying it would be discussing this with its landlord and the local authority.
Since the building closed, the company has been running a free shuttle bus between All Saints Green and its other bingo hall in Aylsham Road. The closure of the city centre site will mean the Aylsham Road venue is the last remaining bingo hall in Norwich.
A spokeswoman for the Rank Group said: “Following the detailed assessment carried out by structural engineers, it
is with great regret that we have taken the decision not to reopen Mecca Bingo in All Saints Green.
“The cost of the repair bill is so high that it would make the business commercially unviable and we will liaise with our
landlord and the local authority regarding the future of the site.
“We are currently consulting with our employees and we will wherever possible redeploy them within the Rank Group.
“We remain committed to Norwich and will be investing in updating our Aylsham Road club later this year and we will also continue to offer the shuttle bus service between All Saints Green and Aylsham Road for the foreseeable future.”
The buses leave All Saints Green at regular intervals between 11am and 1pm, and 5pm and 7pm, and customers will be brought back to the club too. It is not clear if the structural problems are due to subsidence, or for other reasons.
Staff told the Evening News they were devastated to be told the news and the close-knit group are comforting each other and will support each other during the next few difficult weeks.
Team leader Gary Vernall, from Queen’s Hills in Costessey, has worked in the bingo industry since he was 15, and at All Saints Green for the past 23 years.
The 39-year-old said: “We have a real family atmosphere here and it was a say day when they told us.
“We’ve had some good times here and it’s a shame for the customers as many have been coming here for years and this is what they come out for.”
Caller Hazel Dean said she was worried about the state of the jobs market in Norwich and being able to find work.
She said: “We shall really miss seeing everyone here.”
Pamela Hagon, who turns 80 tomorrow, has been going to All Saints Green ever since it opened as a bingo hall and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays it is her break from caring for her husband Arthur.
Mrs Hagon, from Cavell Road, Lakenham, said: “What does it mean to me? Everything. If I don’t come here where else is there to go?
“I love it. I really love the atmosphere, it’s so friendly and I speak so highly of the staff.“
Marika Fraser, 77, from Hethersett, said getting two buses to the other hall would be extremely tiring for her, and she always gets a taxi back, which would cost more from Aylsham Road.
She said: “It’s terrible really. A lot of people are happy with the staff, the place is nice and everybody here is very, very helpful.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s my outing. I have got nothing else - I don’t drink, or smoke. This is where I meet my friends.”
Barbara Hayward, 83, travels from her home in Harleston, Diss, to enjoy a spot of bingo about twice a month.
She said: “I can’t come too often because of transport and it takes quite a while on the bus.
“I normally only go to Aylsham Road when my daughter has a day off as it would mean getting two buses.
“It’s a sad thing it’s closing.”
Sandra Nudd, 53, from Dussindale, said: “I don’t come regularly but I think it’s disappointing for people who use it often.
“It’s handy, being in the city centre, and if they could find a new venue it would need to be easy for older people to get the bus up.”
Send us your memories of the bingo hall and cinema to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more about the history of the building, see Monday’s Evening News.
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