Bilston music venue facing crisis as owner awaits government 'freedom day' decision

The owner of the Robin music venue today spoke of his deepening crisis as its closure continues.

Fraser Tranter, owner of Robin 2 in Bilston
Fraser Tranter, owner of Robin 2 in Bilston

Fraser Tranter is awaiting news as the Prime Minister considers whether the club in Bilston should be allowed to trade again from June 21, or at a time not long after that.

An ongoing row about a local car park, unavoidable financial losses and the loss of key staff have added to his burden.

Mr Tranter says it is unclear when The Robin will be able to re-open.

Add to that the complex picture of rescheduling shows with bands who need certainty about whether or not they’ll be starring the show and its owner, Fraser Tranter, faces the biggest crisis of his business life.

“Things are really awful if I’m being totally frank,” he says.

The Robin and other traders in Bilston have been locked in a lengthy row about a Covid testing station on a public car park behind the rock club.

The council says it’s necessary, Mr Tranter and other traders say it should be moved to a less problematic location.

He said: “With the coronavirus testing station on the car park, we have to make a consideration of whether to open at all.

I can’t expect people to walk through Bilston.

"I was told it would be moved last November but it’s still there. No on goes there any more. It’s shocking.”

Staff from The Robin are still furloughed, though some have gone after Mr Tranter’s business ran up five-figure losses in keeping workers on the books.

He said: “People forget how long this has been going on. We shut last March and haven’t traded since. It’s just disastrous. We’ve suffered at the hands of pandemic. We need a fighting chance to get open.”

When Boris Johnson does give the green light, there will be further challenges.

Trying to book bands is a logistical nightmare at the best of times but some tours will inevitably be pulled as schedules fall apart with venues in other parts of the UK still closed. Mr Tranter has to decide whether to spend £10,000 on a gig guide – which will be money down the drain if the car park issue is not resolved and if there are further delays.

Fraser Tranter wants to know when his venue can start trading again

Understandably, he’s fed up of Covid-19, saying: “Everyone has had enough. You can’t tell me that you can’t open a small club in Bilston because of a variant from India at a time when we are still allowing flights from Mumbai to the busiest airport on earth. People are still coming into Heathrow – if it’s safe enough to allow that, how can it be unsafe for us to have gigs in Bilston?”

Mr Tranter says Covid-19 has tested community spirit as people have been pitched into battles, including the one he has faced with the council.

“It’s tough," he said. "We’ve got promoters who want to use our club but they hear about the car park issue and they take their business elsewhere. I’ve never ever been in such a vulnerable position and through no fault of my own. It’s up to other people now, like the council and the Government, rather than me. The Robin is Bilston, it’s the greatest venue for the Black Country and we need others to help."

Councillor Jasbir Jaspal, Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “The City of Wolverhampton Council is committed to supporting businesses as we come through the Covid-19 pandemic. Coronavirus testing is a vital tool in this, and an integral part of the fight against Covid-19. It helps to monitor and control the virus and along with vaccination, is key to restarting our city and keeping business open.

“Although infection rates across Wolverhampton are currently low, they are increasing so we must consider the need to provide coronavirus testing sites in locations that are easily accessible to all.

“We understand Mr Tranter’s concerns about the challenges his business, like many others across the city, faces as we come out of this global pandemic and through Government grants we have supported businesses to help weather the impact of the pandemic.”

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