Black Country nightclubs plead for help as future hangs in the balance

Nightclub bosses are calling for targeted support to save the country’s club scene from the brink collapse.

Shaun Keasey, owner of Gorgeous Nightclub, Wolverhampton
Shaun Keasey, owner of Gorgeous Nightclub, Wolverhampton

Michael Ansell, owner of The Planet, has said he is more than £140,000 in debt due to the impact on his business caused by the pandemic.

He said: “I only thought we would be closed for three months, but I have had to go back to the bank for another loan.

“My rent alone is £1,150 a week.

“The government help has been non-existent and the pandemic has taken my livelihood and put me so far into debt.

“There is only so much I can borrow, we could go bankrupt, we are being left behind again.”

Shaun Keasey, owner of Gorgeous, echoed Mr Ansell’s concerns, he is demanding more representation for the nightclub industry in government.

He added: “For the nightclub industry Covid-19 has been utterly devastating.

"The entire sector seems to have been forgotten about by those in power, it's not like MPs go to nightclubs so it's not high up on the agenda.

"The word 'nightclub' seems to have disappeared from their vocabulary.

"Nightclubs will be the last part of the economy to come out of lockdown, I want to hear from the chancellor what measures will be in place before we can open. If business rates are not cancelled again for this year it will be the end for a lot of businesses.

"We need a government minister or secretary who is simply focusing on nightclubs and the industry to ensure the correct information is given.

"I would like to see specific measures just for clubs not just alongside the hospitality sector, as they get lost in the long grass of pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels.”

Mr Ansell is concerned about the future of his business if business rates are not frozen again this year.

He said: "If business rates are reintroduced, then I have to pay around £15,000 and that is more money that I have to find.

The Planet Nightclub on Westbury Street

“Throughout the pandemic I have had to pay maintenance, bills, rent, insurance and it is costing me thousands.

“Money is so tight it is unreal.

“My punters raised more than £14,000 to support me and the business, they are helping more than the government. I am eternally grateful for this, but it should not be this way.

“This is my business, I have had to make friends and relatives redundant and it is an absolute joke.

“Wolverhampton Council has been supportive as they can be, but they don’t have all of the answers.

“I will run out of money in April. I don't know if the bank will allow us to have any more money when we don't know when we can reopen and pay it back.

“I have done everything by the book, and yet everything I have worked for is being taken away from me.

“Where is the support for nightclubs?”

Shaun Keasey, owner of Gorgeous Nightclub, Wolverhampton

Mr Keasey believes that the impact of nightclub closures has also had a devastating impact on mental health.

He added: "I used to look in Gorgeous and see a mixture of people who are in there to put their everyday roles of life to one side, to be themselves, enjoy themselves and the benefit of being able to do that cannot be calculated.

"We emphasise physical health but that’s just one half of the picture of a human being the other half is being healthy physically mentally.

"Nightclubs encompass such a huge range of identities, sexualities, races, religions that pubs and bars just can't do.

"I do believe that clubs that revolve around various communities and the Government has a duty to those communities, including younger people, to protect clubs just like they protect leisure centres, to ensure that they are there for young people to enjoy when we emerge from lockdown.

"The government needs to really think about what kind of a country it wants England to be when it emerges from lockdown.

"If it wants to be robotic and sterile, or a lively, eclectic, colourful mix of a country it must make sure that the clubs are preserved."

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