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Belfast pub backing campaign to 'save independent music venues' amid coronavirus lockdown

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The American Bar is one of the small music venues at threat

The American Bar is one of the small music venues at threat

The American Bar is one of the small music venues at threat

A Belfast bar is teaming up with a charity campaigning to save small independent music venues here which it says are severely under threat amid coronavirus lockdown.

The American Bar in Dock Street, which is owned by Pedro Donald, has joined up with the Music Venue Trust. The organisation says more than 500 venues are at risk.

It says “the situation is dire, government support has been exhausted, and it now falls to artists, music fans, local communities and the wider industry to take action”.

Now, The American Bar says that the “current lockdown is proving to be a serious threat to their survival”.

“Small venues such as The American Bar support local and international music throughout the year, often running gigs at a loss. Artists, audiences and staff alike now need help.”

A new crowd-funding page has been set up in order to help raise cash in order to preserve the future of such venues.

“If we hit our target, and we can prevent the closure of our venue, everything above the amount we need will be donated to the Music Venue Trust GMV Crisis Fund to protect other venues just like ours, right across the country,” it says.

Speaking to Ulster Business last week, Pedro Donald – who also owns The Sunflower – said his staff would be paid at their full rate, from day one, before the announcement of the Government’s furlough scheme.

He says he’s dipping in to “rainy day money” to cover costs, and believes a phased opening could be one way of returning to business.

Mr Donald says while it could take a year, or more, he believes things will get back to where they were, but says the Government’s furlough scheme must be extended until businesses can reopen their doors.

“I have had several discussions with others in the trade. The answer is, we don’t know (what’s going to happen).

“I cant see how it opens, says, Monday morning, and it’s all back to normal. They may say, we can open gradually and limit numbers. For example, if we are licensed to have 100 people, we only allow 50.”

Mr Donald says his staff have been paid from day one. “I told them from day one, everyone is on full pay… we are dipping into rainy day money, which is what it’s for. But it means we can’t spend it on the pub – but that’s fine,” he said.

“Personally, I have been quite busy business wise. Checking in with suppliers, things like bin collection and cancelling things. We have sold all our beer and are clearing out stock. That’s for two reasons: to get some stock into cash and pay wages, and because the stock is going to go out-of-date.

“We are are all in same boat. It might take a year or two to get back to where we were, but I believe that will happen.

“I also think, people might take this opportunity to sell or retire, or if they were struggling, throw in the towel.

“I think we are strong enough, personally prepared enough, to see it through no matter what. It’s in the Government’s interest to keep things alive.”

The support page can be found here.