Let the music play: Waterloo Music Bar owner Ian Fletcher will not see live music die as he fights for the industry to keep going amidst new Covid 10pm curfew rules

Lights off, everybody out, but the real threat, says Ian Fletcher, owner of one of the UK's fastest growing music venues The Waterloo Music Bar, is that he and many business owners in the entertainments industry, could be calling last orders for good.

Monday, 28th September 2020, 3:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 10:12 am

Those who have enjoyed a night, many nights at the Waterloo Music Venue will understand. The start of 2020, says Ian was full of promise, with great plans for the summer and beyond.

Then they were forced to shut in March due to the global pandemic.

The late summer had brought with it good news, albeit with some costly measures to help bars and venues across the resort reopen under socially distanced guidance.

Ian Fletcher owner of the Waterloo Music Bar

Face masks were not mandatory but adequate seating and table arrangements to meet strict Covid social distancing measures had to be followed. Guidance Ian immediately set about following.

He says: "We came in and got to work - I wanted it to be safe and knew even with the investment it was something we could do at the Waterloo."

The venue in Waterloo Road, which has welcomed hundreds of bands local to international acts, grass roots musicians to big names, for sell out gigs can now accommodate 100 of it's usual 300 capacity.

Ian says: "It wasn't ideal but we got on with it, like everybody else. All the way through I said, it's everybody, no one has been immune, we're all in the same boat. I've felt sorry for any bar, venue, theatre like us in the town.

Ian Fletcher is calling on the Government to do more to support grassroots venues affected by new Covid restrictions.

"This industry has been decimated - it's heartbreaking. Live music has been my life. We wanted an opportunity to support the bands, the workers and keep them going. They need us more than ever right now."

The bar, which opens its doors at 7.30pm was ready to go when the green light was finally given in August. Ian sold out tickets for opening night August 15 and the band Rupert Fabulous, waived their fee in order to support the bar's fundraising effort.

Visit the fundraising page here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/waterloo-music-bar sharetype=teams&member=5308106&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_na+share-sheet&rcid=812322fbe80f4b20a26aa9c318463849"We were just about managing, I brought some staff back from furlough and pulled in the family to help out, my wife, my son so we could run the table service, " he explains.

"With a venue like this and our takings pretty much made in the time from the band coming on to close. We could cover the bills. Then these announcements, after everything we'd done to provide a safe environment. It's nothing short of a slap in the face."

Ian Fletcher has heavily invested more money to make the venue Covid secure for visitors but early closure will come at a huge cost to the bar's future.

Last week Ian, readily admits he was in a place where he almost considered throwing in the towel. But it's his dedication to the music, the bands not just here in the UK but across Europe and America. There's a mutual love for The Waterloo.

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"The support from the music community, our regulars, fans not just here but from across the world has been fantastic, incredible, buying t-shirts, merchandise, we've been selling out.

"I can't thank people enough for that and even the council for their support and backing to see us open.

Stephen Pierre, owner of The Galleon Bar, Abingdon Street, Blackpool

"We're giving it our best shot, we can't do anything else but it's serious, when is someone going to actually listen - more needs to be done.

"It's not just us who suffers, it's small business too. The takeaways people buy at the end of the night, the taxi companies, the shops.

"There will be so many out there thinking 'is it even worth carrying on?'

"The music industry is being pushed to one side."

Like Ian other venues in the town have reorganised programmes once again to meet the strict new 10pm curfew on the hospitality industry.

Any venue in breach of the Government can be issued with hefty fines or closure notices.

Stephen Pierre of The Galleon in Abingdon Street shares Ian’s passions for music and heartache for those who have been unable to perform. Having also drastically changed the interior of the bar to meet Government guidelines, the unfortunate decision was taken to pull the plug on live music at The Galleon for the time being.

Stephen said: “We’re at the minute a Friday/Saturday bar - no doubt about it. Times are very, very difficult for all of us. It’s a challenge for everybody.

“We can’t afford to be complacent but we also have to be realistic and cut our cloth accordingly. One of the true sayings in business ‘the till tells the tale.’ Forecasts can say anything. And right now it’s watertight - we will go with it to tick over.

We’ve played by all the rules and will continue to do so and that’s why we had to take the decision to not go ahead with bringing back live music. We needed that interior bar space.

“We have been grateful for the furlough scheme We are a destination venue that is still something I’m very proud of, especially in Blackpool.

“The infrastructure thankfully is still there - what we have to remain is united in our sense of optimism.”