Chesterfield music venue boss warns 'use us or lose us'
The owner of a Chesterfield live music venue has urged people to use it – or risk losing it.
Phil Deacon, owner of County Music Bar, has warned the Saltergate venue faces permanent closure if ‘freedom day’ is delayed again.
He said he had budgeted for full reopening after freedom day – the term coined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to refer to the end of all coronavirus measures, such as social distancing – on June 21 and was forced to revise his cashflow forecast when it was officially pushed by four weeks till July 19.
However, the 40-year-old warned he did not have the funds to support the business if it was pushed back a second time.
“If they extend it again, we’d be closed, its as simple as that,” he warned.
“I don’t have the money for our overheads. However, if the next few gigs go ahead and people come out, we will claw ourselves out of it.”
He took over the venue several years ago and invested heavily into transforming into a “small-to-medium” live music venue, including staging, lighting and a sound system.
“We had the typical first year of losing money, because you’ve invested, the second year we broke even and the third year was 2020 and we had the best January and February ever,” he said.
“Then March came and we locked down.
"During lockdown, we tried to do a bit of everything we can, food, drink, but its not what we’re known for, but when we were allowed to put music on, we were losing money hand over fist.
“We can normally have up to 200 people in for a gig. During lockdown, the first time we had about 60 people, then they reduced it to one household and it went down to 25-30 people.
‘It’s not the same’
He said he asked people if they wanted live bands when restrictions were partially lifted a second time – and was told ‘no’.
“People said ‘we don’t want to come to town and sit down to watch a live band, it’s not the same’,” he said.
“A lot of the bands said the same, saying ‘we don’t want to play to 40 people looking up from a table, we want to play to 180 sweaty people shouting at us from six feet away’.”
“The delay really cost us,” he said. “We need funds from a few big events.”
The venue has benefited from small pub grants at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but has missed out on the Government’s £1.5 billion Culture Recovery Fund.
He said: “The minimum application was for £50,000 and you had to justify what you needed it for. I only needed £15,000-£20,000 to tide us over, so didn’t qualify.”
He is now hoping Freedom Day goes ahead on July 19 and music-lovers will flock back to events, such as his Emergence all-day heavy rock and metal festival on July 24, featuring live bands from noon-2am.
“What I hope is support by people coming in and putting money in the till.
“You have got to come out and support the venue, or lose it.”