• Liam Machin

#SaveThe30 Venue38: A venture spoiled by COVID

It’s fair to say the pandemic has ruined nearly everybody’s major plans since the first lockdown came in March.


For Tracy McGregor and partner James Bunten it’s been a particularly tough time having only taken over Ayr’s Venue38 at the end of January last year which found itself on MVT’s most at risk list.


“We took over the venue on January 24th 2020, did a quick refurb to open on the 13th February and then we were then closed down on the 20th March so its been extremely stressful to say the least,” said Tracy.


As the pair heads towards the first anniversary of ownership, it would’ve been unimaginable if you said the venue would only have had six weeks worth of trade.

She joked: “We were about to throw ourselves off the nearest bridge wondering what we had done to be in this situation! It has been difficult though and really worrying at times.”


Like many other hospitality venues, Tracy believes more could have been done (and still can be) by the government to support venues in understanding the regulations.


She explained “it's simply not a one size fits all issue,” and highlighted the lack of appreciation / understanding of the live entertainment industry from the government.


She said: “We have no indication of when a venue like ours will be able to reopen. We are more standing than seated so are unable to implement the seating only rule - it’s pointless and not cost effective for us to open.


“We are being lumped together with other hospitality decisions and rules but we are uniquely different along with hundreds of other music and events venues.”


Despite the circumstances, the pair turned a negative situation into a positive by hosting a soup kitchen in December to thank those who have supported their cause and celebrate Christmas.


Tracy added: “The soup kitchen was a great opportunity to get some strong feedback about the refurbishment and our plans for the reopening. Along our local authority who have arranged grants for us, the people here have been fantastic with their support.


“I have to add that we don’t know where we would be without the help of the Music Venue Trust - they have been our lifeline this past year and we cannot thank them enough.”


Venue38 has a number of events lined up for when things are ‘back to normal’ but there remains the issue - when will that be?


She concluded: “We had been hoping for some form of opening from Easter but this doesn’t look like that will happen anymore which is frustrating.


“Once again, the Government has given us no concrete information. Pubs might be able to open from May but what about us? The future of the music industry depends on grassroots venues.”

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