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The UK's biggest nightclub owner will today breach its banking covenants, triggering its slide into administration and jeopardising 3,000 jobs, dozens in the North East.
Luminar, which runs Liquid and Lava & Ignite clubs in Newcastle and Sunderland has been told by its lenders that they will not extend a recent period of leniency due to end today.
The group, which employs 3,000 full and part-time staff and operates 75 venues, said it will be left with no option but to call in administrators although it declined to say when they would be appointed. Its shares were suspended yesterday.
Luminar has suffered amid the financial gloom as its core market of 18 to 24-year-olds has been hit by high levels of youth unemployment. The smoking ban and changes in licensing laws to allow pubs to stay open longer have also hurt it.
It recorded losses of £198 million in the year to the end of February as sales dropped by 19% to £137 million.
Its lenders - Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB and Barclays - threw it a lifeline in May when they agreed to waive banking covenants on a temporary basis to allow the business time to turn itself around. This period of leniency was extended in August but will expire tomorrow.
The group had been trying to drum-up more business by diversifying its offer, including holding Jongleurs comedy nights and introducing WooWoo cocktail bars next to its clubs. It had also been running more student nights and live DJs and acts to refresh its appeal
Trading in recent months had been more encouraging although its profit margins have been squeezed as it put on more promotions.
However, the English riots in August added to its woes and had a "material impact on trading''.
The Milton Keynes-based group recently put itself up for sale in an attempt to secure its future. But it only received offers for part of the business and said these were not sufficient to generate returns for shareholders.
Luminar was recently in the headlines after a 22-year-old student was killed in a crush at its Lava & Ignite club in Northampton.
Nabila Nanfuka, of Neasden, north-west London, was fatally injured and two other women taken to hospital in a critical condition.