'I can’t look beyond the end of the month': Robin 2 owner fears for venue's future

The owner of one of the Midlands’ most popular music venues today revealed he was on the brink of disaster.

 Fraser Tranter, owner of robin 2, at Bilston
Fraser Tranter, owner of robin 2, at Bilston

Fraser Tranter bought The Robin 2 from former owner, Mike Hamblett, a couple of years ago.

He has since spent £300,000 upgrading the venue and had hoped to be reaping the rewards with a bumper schedule of events.

A hotel on the site has been refurbished, a restaurant built, bars spruced up, a new lighting rig installed and a new sound system fixed. It ensures the venue, in Bilston, Wolverhampton, is not just one of the best in the region, but one of the best in the UK.

Apart from a £25,000 grant he has had no income and been forced to furlough staff.

And with no end to the crisis in sight, he fears for the worst.

He said: “I don’t want to make it too political, because everyone has their different opinions of Government and what they do. Boris started off positively, making good announcements with the furlough scheme.

“But when you look back, he’s destroyed the country, he’s destroyed us. I’m not just on about my business. People don’t want to go back to work after furlough. Nobody is interested. Everybody has taken their foot off the gas for six months. You go to a pub now, you are made to feel unwelcome, uncomfortable, you’re served by someone with a mask on.

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“How come we’re in such a state and Germany and Sweden aren’t in this mess? It’s been a joke.”

Mr Fraser added: “The Robin was doing okay. I won’t lie and say there was a great return on the money, there wasn’t.

“But I knew of the Robin, being local. I knew running a club or bar wouldn’t be that difficult, so I poured money into it. The main thing for me was investing in the building. I bought the freehold and all the properties and the business fell into the deal.

“We built the club into the best live music venue in the Midlands. I couldn’t put it better than that. It’s genuinely the best. We have the best live music, the best bands, lighting, sound system… you name it. The capacity of 700, which is brilliant, and there’s a nice little restaurant upstairs. The hotel has been completely refurbished at the side and there’s a really friendly atmosphere with free car parking. We sort of tick every box.”

Since the closure, Mr Fraser says he hasn’t taken a penny, save for a £25,000 grant, which has simply slowed the losses that stack up.

He said: “It’s laughable. I can’t look beyond the end of the month at the moment. It’s hard, hard times. The rules change on a week-to-week basis. They’re talking about six people in a bubble, six people, are you joking? There’s more staff than that.”

He’s considered re-opening but says there’s no point, adding: “We couldn’t stock the beer because of what they’re doing. It will cost us £5,000 to stock the bar when we re-open.

“There’s a price to pay. Between now and Christmas it would cost me £50,000 to reopen the club and that could put us in a very precarious situation. The best option is to stay closed for now and furlough people.”

He admits he has no idea what will happen in the months to come, saying: “Who knows what we’ll do?”

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