“It‘s costing us £30,000 a week at the moment to be closed”: Bill Heckle, co-owner of the Cavern Club

The Liverpool venue, known for regularly hosting The Beatles, fights for “survival” amid COVID-19 lockdown.

Liverpool Cavern Club Lockdown

Photo: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

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Liverpool’s Cavern Club, the music venue best known for regularly hosting The Beatles in the early 60s, as well as acts such as The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Adele, has opened up on its bout of financial distress resulting from COVID-19.

The venue has reportedly been losing £30,000 weekly since lockdown began in March, and recently had to retrench workers in order to stay afloat.

Speaking to the BBC, Bill Heckle, co-owner of the world-famous venue stated: “About seven months ago, you couldn’t even think of a scenario where the Cavern wouldn’t be successful – I actually said that”.

“We went five months before unfortunately we had to make about 20 people redundant,” Heckle said. “We think we might have to make another 20 redundant in the next few weeks.”

In its fight for ‘survival’, the club has relied on a stored £1.4m in the bank – an amount that Heckle said has “now been halved”. He added: “We made a decision a few years ago to keep as much money in the bank as possible for a rainy day, not realising it was going to be a thunderstorm.”

The Cavern club plans to reopen later this August, albeit hosting only virtual shows rather than its regular live performances. The BBC estimated that the venue typically has about 800,000 visitors annually.

However, Heckle revealed that even if the venue were allowed to restart in-person shows at a limited capacity, it would be highly unlikely for it to break even – much less, turn a profit.

“If the government grants allow us to open at 30%, then we still lose money,” Heckle said. “I don’t want them to pay our profits, I wouldn’t expect them to pay our profits, but at least make sure we don’t lose money, because it’s costing us £30,000 a week at the moment to be closed.”

Last July, the UK government announced a £1.57 rescue package for the arts, its “biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture”. Financial support was extended to live music venues, along with other performing arts theatres, heritage sites, museums, galleries and independent cinemas.

Although the government stated that the support fund would lead to increased work for freelancers, many at present have found themselves in dire financial straits. This lead to a vast demonstration last Tuesday (11 August) where thousands of music industry workers marched the streets of Manchester, England to raise awareness of massive unemployment rates amid COVID-19.

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