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The numbers are up for bingo players in Whitstable

Elizabeth Flack with her winning card
Elizabeth Flack with her winning card

It was eyes down for the last time at The Oxford in Whitstable as the owners called house after nearly 50 years of bingo.

The club was packed with more than 200 players for its final session on Wednesday night before the building closes and is converted into a Wetherspoons pub.

Owner Stewart Neame said: "It was quite a special evening because many of our customers have been coming for years and are quite attached to the place.

"There was a mixture of good spirits and sadness and I said a few words to thank everyone."

Mr Neame, who also runs the Connaught Bingo Club in Herne Bay, said the business in Whitstable was no longer viable as sessions had dropped to three evenings a week with only around 80 people and there were increasing burdens of tax and legislation.

Mr Neame said several of its seven staff had taken redundancy and some were moving to his other club in Herne Bay while others hoped to get jobs with the new Wetherspoon’s.

He added: "I’m glad the building is not being pulled down and replaced with flats because it would be a loss to Whitstable. But I don’t think it would ever be viable as a cinema again.

"However, a company like Wetherspoon’s have the resources to make a good job of refurbishing it and give it a new life.

"They are due take it over next week and reckon they’ll do the work in six to eight weeks."

*The Oxford picture house opened in December 1912 and was rebuilt in the art deco style in 1936.

Bingo sessions began in 1962 but the building continued to operate as a cinema for more than 20 years.

The last film was shown in 1984 when there were just four customers.

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