By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter
The owner of an iconic London music venue where the Rolling Stones once had a residency said he has budgeted for a full reopening of clubs and bars in September if venues are not allowed to open without restrictions this month. (June 21)
Jeff Horton’s family have run the 100 Club in Oxford Street for decades.
They were once even thanked by Nelson Mandela who heard about gigs there from his prison cell on Robben Island.
There’s been a club on the site since 1942 when it started life as the Feldman Swing Club and hosted greats including Glenn Miller and Louis Armstrong.
Just before lockdown it became the first venue to be given localism relief by Westminster City Council because of its cultural importance.
Mr Horton is a member of the Music Venue Alliance for 900 grass roots venues across the country.
He said he “always suspected” the much-mooted reopening after June 21 would not happen because of fears of new Covid variants.
“I have budgeted till September. I always felt that probably the June 21 date of reopening would not happen.”
However he felt with the vaccine roll out to younger age groups and the high take up of the jab “we are ten times healthier than we started at”.
He questioned why restrictions would need to be so tough if this means the impact of Covid could be less severe than before, with hopefully fewer hospitalisations.
He added: “If we have to shut for a long time it’s not going to make much difference to us.
“What we can’t have is a yoyo in between being shut, having certain regulations and being shut on and off.”
The venue has opened when allowed with social distancing and a restricted capacity, rather than the normal capacity of 350 people.
It is using a Pathogen Reduction System it tested this winter. The ventilation system is designed to wipe out 99.9 per cent of pathogens. It uses high intensity ultra violet light to kill pathogens and is similar to systems used to disinfect operating theatres.
It has also ordered less stock to avoid throwing unused beer away.
Mr Horton said the hospitality industry has had a tough time. “I do not think the hospitality industry can go on like this much longer,” he said.
He explained that the localism relief and zero business rates have made a big difference but businesses can’t keep operating with the current restrictions forever.
Eventually landlords will want rent and businesses will have to start paying off loans.
He fears that businesses will really be hit hard in a year’s time.
“The impact on hospitality in a year’s time when landlords start demanding full rent and debts are being demanded, that’s when the impact will be felt.”
Mr Horton said the pressure on businesses has also affected people in other ways.
“My blood pressure was through the roof. I think it’s probably a consequence of what we have been going through.”
Others are also suffering from stress as they face a tough time for their businesses, he said.
Pictured: Jeff Horton, the owner of the 100 Club. Photo by Owen Sheppard.
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