Liverpool’s Cavern Club in ‘fight for survival’

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Liverpool City Council

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The Beatles’ first Cavern gig was in 1961

The Cavern Club, best known for launching The Beatles, faces ruin as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

It opened in Liverpool in 1957 and hosts about 800,000 visitors per year.

Bill Heckle, one of the club’s directors, said it had lost £30,000 a week since the lockdown began in March.

“We went five months before unfortunately we had to make about 20 people redundant. We think we might have to make another 20 redundant in the next few weeks.”

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The Beatles industry brings £100m a year to Liverpool, the council says

The Beatles played their first Cavern gig in 1961 and the late entertainer Cilla Black worked as a cloakroom attendant at the Mathew Street premises.

Rainy day savings

Other big name acts to have played there include The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and Adele and it was hosting live concerts there until lockdown.

“About seven months ago, you couldn’t even think of a scenario where the Cavern wouldn’t be successful – I actually said that,” Mr Heckle said.

“We made a decision a few years ago to keep as much money in the bank as possible for a rainy day, not realising it was going to be a thunderstorm.

“So, we were sitting on £1.4m in the bank that has now been halved.”

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The Cavern Club opened in 1957

The Cavern’s survival depends on a bid to the government’s cultural recovery fund, a Liverpool City Council spokesperson said.

‘It’s about survival’

“If the government grants allow us to open at 30%, then we still lose money,” Mr Heckle said.

“I don’t want them to pay our profits, I wouldn’t expect them to pay our profits, but at least make sure we don’t lose money, because it’s costing us £30,000 a week at the moment to be closed.”

The club is reopening for virtual sets by music bands from around the world later in August.

“We know we’re not going to make money,” Mr Heckle said. “It’s about really reminding people we’re here and the sole aim is to get out the other side, I’m sure we will. But it is about survival.”

The Beatles and The Cavern Club

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PA Media

  • The Cavern Club opened as a jazz venue on 16 January 1957
  • The Beatles first performed at the Cavern in 1961, featuring John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, with Stuart Sutcliffe on bass and Pete Best on drums
  • Liverpool businessman Brian Epstein saw his first performance by the band later that year and offered to become their manager
  • Ringo Starr appeared at the Cavern as The Beatles drummer for the first time in 1962, and the last of the group’s 292 performances at the venue came on 3 August 1963
  • In 1973, the buildings above the venue were demolished, and the club was closed and filled in with rubble
  • It was later rebuilt using the original plans and many original bricks, and reopened on 26 April 1984

Source: The Cavern Club

The city’s mayor Joe Anderson said the “prospect of losing a national jewel like the Cavern is a horrible scenario”.

“Liverpool City Council is doing it all it can to help our venues but we can only do so much, given how much financial pressure we are under supporting the most vulnerable in our communities.”