Published: 13:51, 15 July 2020
| Updated: 20:20, 15 July 2020
A national bingo chain has confirmed it will close its branch in Chatham.
The Buzz Bingo, in a prominent building on the corner of the high street, is one of 26 that are to be shut by the company.
About 570 jobs are believed to be under threat due to the closures, which have come as the firm attempts to cut its losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, chief executive Chris Matthews said.
The Buzz Group has seen all of its bingo halls shut since lockdown began in March.
As well as Chatham, sites in Bournemouth, Milton Keynes, Oxford and Wolverhampton are among those that will not be reopening.
But bingo fans in Medway will still be able to visit the club at Medway Park in Strood – about four miles away – which is among 91 of the chain's venues staying open.
The move is part of a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) with proposals for an additional £22 million cash injection from investors to keep the company afloat.
The remaining branches are due to start reopening in phases from August 6.
Announcing the decision to members, Mr Matthews said it was "with sadness" the 26 clubs would not be reopening.
He said: "With our clubs closed since March 21, coronavirus has had a significant impact on our business and on the entire leisure and hospitality industry.
"We have therefore had to make some difficult decisions about how we move forward and ensure that we protect the future of Buzz Bingo.
"Our Buzz Bingo community means the world to us, and we know how disappointing this news will be – especially for those of our customers who are losing their local club, and of course, our colleagues – we know that we are more than just a club, we are part of your community, and for that, I am really sorry.
"We could never have expected this outcome when we closed our doors.
"But the coronavirus crisis is a completely one-off event. The decision to restructure our club portfolio is the right way to secure our long-term future and make sure that we can still bring bingo to our customers in the majority of our clubs around the country and online."
It is yet another blow for Chatham town centre which has already lost Debenhams and doubts lingering over the future of Go Outdoors, with the latter announcing only a matter of weeks ago it is going into administration.
Labour opposition leader at Medway Council Vince Maple says it is thought 35 staff are being consulted about the Buzz closure.
The Chatham Central ward councillor added: "This is another devastating announcement for Chatham town centre.
"My thoughts are with the hard working staff and for those who use the Chatham branch – this follows the recent closure of Debenhams and uncertainty over the Go Outdoors operation.
"Chatham town centre will need additional support as a matter of urgency particularly as we come out of the global pandemic.”
In April, Medway Council submitted a bid for funding to the government to regenerate Chatham High Street through the Future High Streets fund.
The council is requesting between £10 million and £20 million to revamp the town centre with councillors saying empty shops represented "big opportunities" rather than "big problems".
It has not been confirmed how many people are employed at the Chatham branch or if they will be redeployed to the Medway Park club.
More by this authorSteve Waite
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