Plans to close Lancaster’s only official student nightclub and turn it into student flats have been slammed.
Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU) says it is in negotiations with a developer to potentially sell The Sugarhouse to provide “affordable student and key worker housing in the city”.
The union said that profits from any sale would be invested in facilities and a range of student services.
A spokesman told the Lancaster Guardian that the matter is currently commercially confidential, so it could not comment at this stage on potential developers or the value of the deal.
But the announcement has been criticised by students past and present, who say it is the only “safe space” in the city for students.
Former Lancaster University student and Top Gear presenter James May also commented on the news.
He Tweeted: “What’s this about selling The Sugarhouse? No point having affordable housing if you don’t have an affordable nightclub.”
In 2016, students voiced their opposition to the development of The Gillows building in North Road – because of the effect it would have on The Sugarhouse.
Last year, Lancaster City Council and Lancaster University responded to growing concerns about the level of student development in Lancaster city centre.
Lancaster developer Cityblock is almost finished converting the Gillows building - which was also a nightclub - into student flats.
St Leonards House, next door to The Sugarhouse, has also been converted into student flats, prompting concerns about noise levels from the existing Sugarhouse venue and the effect this would have on nearby student tenants.
LUSU said at the time: “It’s unrealistic to think that there are any measures that could be taken to make sound levels acceptable, and we’ve heard of venues up and down the country being forced to close after housing was built nearby.”
But LUSU’s announcement about The Sugarhouse - which it has owned since 1985 - proved unsavoury.
Sam Packwood said: “Embarrassing. Never seen anything more out of touch from LUSU with the body of people they are supposed to represent. Sugar is THE place for lancaster students, always has been and always will be. Really hope the current students ensure this ridiculous proposal doesn’t go ahead.”
Laura Patterson said: “Usually support the union (sometimes controversially) but this decision seems out of touch with most students.
“The sugar house is a major selling point of the university and would be a shame for it to close. I know discussions of its feasibility has been talked about for a while but surely there are other options than a complete closure of the venue?”
While Matthew Porter said: “This is outrageous, Sugar is our ‘safe space’ the best nights out as a student are always in sugar.
“It’s our only space, as exclusively students, to relax and enjoy a night out without worrying about threat of violence or issues that arise from substance abuse. “Businesses in the local area will suffer also as students pre-drink in local pubs. I hope that they reconsider, this is a very very sad day for the Students Union. After rebranding to be rid of the negative association that came with ‘LUSU’, this move will surely put the good name of the students union into complete disrepute.”
LUSU said the decision to sell has been made after considering the best interests of present and future students.
It described it as a successful business which is very popular among “some” students at Lancaster, however, it said, in recent years “the area around the nightclub has started to become heavily developed with accommodation, student social behaviours are changing with fewer drinking alcohol and late night socialising which has increasingly made the Sugarhouse position challenging”.
A spokesperson added: “We understand that students, past and present, have become very attached to The Sugarhouse, and will be concerned at the decision to sell it, but we as a Union have to consider the interests of the whole student body, not just now, but in years to come.
“We will now work to identify other social opportunities for students, in Lancaster and on campus.
“We will invest proceeds from the sale in a range of facilities and services that would be of lasting benefit to the student body as a whole.
“There are a small number of staff and student staff who might be impacted by any sale.
“Staff will be consulted about the developments and should a sale go ahead the Students’ Union would work to support all staff to find alternative roles.”