BINGO fans have spoken of their “devastation” at news their favourite venue is set to close.
It will no longer be ‘eyes down’ for regulars at the Mecca Bingo in Dean Road, South Shields, after bosses decided not to renew its lease.
The doors will close on the premises, which has been a popular place for bingo players of all ages, on September 14.
The news was delivered to staff on Wednesday morning and filtered through to customers – leaving those who frequent the place in shock.
Bosses of the bingo hall say staff affected – some who have been working at the venue for almost 40 years – are being consulted with in the hope of finding them alternative employment.
There are 31 full-time and part-time employees who work at the venue.
One staff member, who wished not to be named, said: “The staff were told on Wednesday morning by the management that the bingo hall will cease trading on September 14.
“We’ve been told they are looking at relocating us to other premises in Gateshead or Sunderland but I don’t think people will travel.
“People will probably end up taking redundancy.
“Obviously we are all devastated, there are some staff who have been here for nearly 40 years – they worked here when it was the old Regent bingo.”
Bingo player Nicole Mullen, 19, from Dean Road, was shocked by the news.
She said: “My mam used to come here and really enjoyed it.
“When she had cancer she still used to visit the bingo as it was her way of escaping what was going on.
“When I was 18, I was given my membership and I have been ever since. The staff are so friendly, everyone knows everyone here. The staff are always asking about my family.
“I’m devastated it’s closing.”
One pensioner, who travels from Jarrow to attend the bingo sessions, added: “We were told last night about the place closing. I’ve been coming here for years, before it was even the Mecca bingo. Where are we supposed to go now? Everything seems to be shutting down – soon there will be no places for people to go.”
Another said: “I’m just devastated at the news. I’ve been coming here for years, it’s a lovely place and not too far away from my home. The staff are absolutely gutted. They really are fantastic staff, so friendly.
“It’s the only place I can come to, have a game of bingo and feel welcome.
“People travel from all over South Tyneside to come here – it’s just so sad.”
A spokeswoman for Rank Group, which owns Mecca, said: “We can confirm that the lease on the premises operating as a Mecca Bingo has ended and as a result the building will cease to operate as a Mecca bingo club with effect from September 14, 2014.
“We are consulting with all employees at the club and we will endeavour to find them other employment opportunities within the company, wherever possible, and we have been advised that the landlord is looking for another tenant.”