Plymouth social club manager 'devastated' after historic venue announces closure

The manager of a historic Plymouth social club which is to be shut and its premises put up for sale has said it is a sad day for the community as well as herself and her family.

Louisa Traynor is general manager of The Saltram, a members-only club on Salisbury Road, in St Jude's, which was first established in 1901.

A committee representing member shareholders, who took over the business in 2010, put out a statement at the weekend saying that the club would be shut from May 29 and put on the market, after what they said was advice from accountants and an insolvency practice.

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Mrs Traynor took over the running of the club when more than 50 members clubbed together to buy shares and take over the business so it could remain open for the community. The club runs three darts teams, a pool team, sponsors a football team as well as holding charity fundraising events for various good causes.

Together with husband, Graham, and children Lacy-Dee and Connor, the establishment's premises is also home for Louisa, who was invited to open the club for a weekend when it was taken over in 2010 and never left.

She said: "Someone who was on the board of directors at the time knew me and approached me and said 'are you doing anything' and asked me if I wanted to open up the club for a weekend just to see if people would come back before they committed. That was in March [2010] and I've not left since me and Graham and the kids haven't left since."

She added: "My kids were two and three when we came here and they have grown up here. This is their life. It's not just my job, it's our home."

Mrs Traynor said that, while she and her family have been given time to find a new home, she is distraught at the potential loss of a community venue which offers the only chance to socialise for many older members who now live alone.

Shedding a tear as she spoke, she said: "We are devastated not just for me but for the members. It's their community hub we've got people who come in twice or three times a week just to speak to people because they are living on their own or widowed.

"It is a shame for those people as this is the time they get to spend with their friends as they are a certain age and they can only walk so far or only go so far."

Mrs Traynor added: "I just hope that whoever does buy the building will do something and will keep it, if not a social club, then do something that is going to give the community somewhere to go and catch up."

The statement from the club's committee paid tribute to Mrs Traynor's work, and said they are looking to find a buyer.

The statement read: "It's with deep regret that, after taking advice from both our accountants and a potential insolvency practice, we have decided to close the doors of The Saltram club on the 29th of May.

"I appreciate that this won't come as any shock to members that use the club's facilities regularly. The club will be on the market, and we will be looking to find a buyer.

"We would like this opportunity to thank Louisa and all her team for the amazing work they have put in over the years. Best regards, The Saltram club committee."

Mrs Traynor said she does not run the finances for the club, and she did not believe financial troubles were behind the decision to sell. Instead, she believes that some members who had put in money for shares now needed their investment back.

She explained: "We're not in financial difficulty in any way shape or form, as far as I am aware, but we have quiet months, just the same as everyone else has quiet months in whatever trade. Ultimately it is the decision that they have made, that they want to sell the property, which is sad, so very sad.

"We knew that something was needed to be done because of the fact that certain people had passed away and other people needed their financial backing from what they had put into the club back out you know what times are like at the moment and that people are struggling.

"So there were conversations had, and we got to a point where we hit a brick wall as to what we were going to do, and so the directors made the decision that the best opportunity for us now would be to sell the building, but if you sell the building there's no club, so that's where we're at at the moment."

She said that the effect of the Covid pandemic was still being felt in the hospitality trade, and fears that the venue could end up becoming residential housing.

She said: "It would be sad if it was turned into flats or whatever, but ultimately I don't know the way forward at the moment because there are a lot of places that are struggling at the minute. Pubs, clubs, they are shutting left right and centre for whatever reason it might be, either financially or people who have done it for so many years of their lives, they just don't want to do it any more.

"It's a sad time because people don't go out like they used to. I know everyone talks about Covid constantly, but that was a massive knock-on effect for everyone in the hospitality trade."

The club remains open, and is continuing to trade, until the end of Tuesday, May 28, and Mrs Traynor said members had been hugely supportive since the news.

She said: "Everyone has been so, so supportive, and wherever I go or they go I would like to think that they will come and see us, whether I do go somewhere else, running another pub or doing something completely different, as I have been in it nearly 30 years."