Sub Club is at risk of permanent closure. Help SAVE OUR SUB

Today, we are saying something we never thought we would have to say again – the good ship Sub Club is in danger of sinking! We have faced many different trials and tribulations over the last 33 years, ranging from the infamous licensing curfew of the early 90’s to the building fire which forced the club’s closure in 1999 and led us to nomadic adventures, keeping the Subbie spirit alive in other venues until the fabled reopening in 2002.

We have faced countless other challenges over the years and are currently still fighting a long running and costly legal battle over noise issues arising from the grant of planning permission for a hotel development directly adjacent to the club, all of which has meant that the Sub Club has been very much a labour of love for all concerned for more than 3 decades. However, none of these situations hold a candle to the existential threat that the COVID-19 pandemic currently poses to the Sub Club, and indeed to Club Culture as a whole around the globe.

As lockdown is gradually lifted and some elements of the life we used to live slowly filter back in, what is abundantly clear is the fact that underground basement clubs will be amongst the very last things to reopen. We were the first spaces closed and we will be the last to open. The level of UK Government support has fallen woefully short of what is required to protect the future of the Sub Club. We are very aware that many people are experiencing real financial difficulty, and for some the threat to their health and wellbeing is profound. We have had to think long and hard before reaching out to ask for your help. Nevertheless, if we want to Save Our Sub we find ourselves in a situation where we have to ask for your support.

THE SITUATION

Along with virtually all venues, and in line with UK Government guidance, we closed the Sub Club doors in March. At the time, we had no way of knowing what the months ahead would look like but we anticipated we might be closed for 8-10 weeks. As the weeks passed we patiently waited as Boris Johnson and his Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an economic rescue package supposedly designed to support the ENTIRE economy, repeatedly stating ‘we will do whatever it takes’ to save businesses and keep people in their jobs. A whole host of measures were announced by the chancellor including VAT & Business Rates relief, CBIL and Bounce Back Loans and most critically of all, the Job Retention Scheme or “FURLOUGH”.

Along with most businesses we breathed a sigh of relief as on the surface these measures seemed like they would at least help us weather the storm and offer a fighting chance that the Sub Club would still be afloat when we reached the other side of this crisis. Crucially, we thought that at least we could make sure that all of our 30+ staff members were looked after and provided for during such a difficult time.

Following Government guidance we applied for the Employee Furlough scheme and continued to pay all 31 staff members 80% of their wages in order to minimise any disruption to individual financial circumstances, on the obvious presumption that the full amount would be reimbursed at the end of April once the scheme got up and running. Despite months of trying to address mistakes and errors on HMRC’s own system before the crisis began, we were eventually told we didn’t meet the eligibility criteria for the Job Retention Scheme, as our payroll information had been uploaded 1 day late, resulting in the refusal of our rebate claim of £31,864 which we had already paid to staff. It’s important to note that the cutoff date within the eligibility criteria was applied retrospectively, so this was not a mistake on our part, it was a failure on the HMRC system which has caused us to be barred from the scheme.

Even worse, the furlough status of all 31 staff moving forward has been invalidated meaning we have had to place all our staff on unpaid leave. This includes our managers, our cleaner, our technical staff, our bar and door staff and our office admin team. Despite multiple appeals supplying copious evidence to support our case and representations at the highest level of Government by our MP we still find ourselves in this perilous situation! Not only are all our fantastic staff left without income or the prospect of working in the near future, but all the DJs who play at the club, all the promoters who put such effort into putting on amazing nights and events, all the tech staff and others who earn their corn as freelancers and depend on us for their livelihoods, are left high and dry. Many of these people have been with the club for many years and in some cases several decades!

The cumulative effect of all this is that we now find ourselves in a situation where through absolutely no fault of our own the Sub Club could permanently close without significant intervention! We face an immediate, and very real existential threat. In order for the Sub Club to survive week-to-week, we need to be open at full capacity every weekend. It’s very clear since we are still only in phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s lockdown easing roadmap, that this will not be remotely possible for many months to come. As many venues and spaces explore operating under physical distancing guidelines, we know this is completely impossible for us. The nature of the basement space prevents any reasonable attempt to manage physical distancing above about 20% of our capacity, and even then the associated costs would be completely prohibitive.

More crucially still, the very essence of our club culture is the unspoken connection which you find on the dance floor – and so we are not prepared to attempt to reopen under any restrictive physical distancing directives. We will not sacrifice those ideals which have been the core ethos of the Sub Club from the very start 33 years ago, and we believe we would be doing the community a disservice by trying to do so especially for very dubious commercial reasons. We will not dilute the Subbie experience!

Ultimately, under these circumstances and with the current guidelines in place, we don’t believe the Sub Club can reopen until December. If we can open sooner then of course we will. With all this in mind we have decided it is time to take the future of the Subbie into our own hands and ask for your support to help us weather this storm. So that we can dance as one down in that sweaty basement once more, bang that ceiling again and get lost in music together as we have done for the last 33 years.

WHAT WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT FOR

To cover our weekly running costs.
To set up a Staff Hardship fund
To recover the £31,864 Furlough denied by HMRC.
To invest in infrastructure for re-opening post COVID-19.
To help launch “Dazzle Fund” – a new Sub Club charitable initiative
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The points mentioned above are just some of the things that we know are an issue for us at the current moment. As the months pass and the situation evolves, inevitably circumstances will change and we may need to focus our resources into different areas. In order to maintain transparency about where funds generated by this campaign are being utilised, we will update the Crowdfunder page and the Sub Club website with periodic transparency & openness statements designed to provide as full a picture as possible of how things are progressing behind the scenes.

Dazzle Fund is designed to support worthwhile causes and marginalised communities through donations and projects within the Sub Hub framework. 5% of all funds raised by this campaign will be donated to the fund once we hit our target.

TRANSPARENCY

Our normal average weekly running costs are around £10,000 + VAT.
Our average weekly payroll cost is around £4500
Our current (closed) weekly costs not including payroll are around £3000
The deficit for wages paid during the first 8 weeks of lockdown for which HMRC have denied our rebate is £31,864
We anticipate that we need around £90,000 to keep things ticking over until December when we hope we can reopen.
We began to streamline Sub Hub project plans at the end of 2019 and planned to launch “Dazzle Fund” in the middle of 2020. Last year charitable events and donations from the Sub Club totalled approx £7,000. Over the next year we plan to focus more on projects centred on Black, POC and marginalised communities, mental health, Refugee Charities, womxn’s charities, LGBTQ+ causes & social welfare. We will also continue to work towards making the Sub Hub project & the Sub Club itself more inclusive on all levels.
In addition to the Covid-19 related expenses outlined above, we have had to spend over £45,000 on legal expenses fighting a lengthy battle to protect the club over noise issues arising from the proposed Wetherspoons Hotel development next door to the club. Simultaneously we successfully lobbied Scottish Government to adopt the ’Agent Of Change’ principle into planning guidance and force planners to consider pre-existing noise levels emanating from the club.

To find out more how you can help and donate, head to https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/saveoursub

#SaveOurSub #SubClubSOS #FeelTheFuture


Damion Pell
About the Author

Loves long walks along the beach, holding hands and romantic 80's power ballads, partial to electronic music and likes to make the odd mix or two.