Covid could close Cavern Club – forever

The club that launched The Beatles is facing permanent closure due to Covid-19.

The Cavern, on Mathew Street, is arguably the most famous club in the world attracting more than 800,000 visitors a year and is a key factor in the city’s £100m a year Beatles industry.

But the owners of the legendary live music venue say it is now facing financial ruin because of the pandemic.

In an interview with Liverpool City Council, Bill Heckle, one of the Directors of the club and Cavern City Tours, says the iconic venue, which has hosted a litany of stars such as The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and Elton John to modern day chart toppers like Adele, has been losing £30,000 a week since the lockdown began in March.

The Cavern’s survival now rests on a bid to the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund with Bill describing the club’s plight as the greatest challenge of his life.

Having helped establish Cavern City Tours in 1983, Bill also expressed his heartbreak that despite the furlough scheme his business was now having to make staff redundant.

He said: “Every single day 24/7 I’m solving problems, that’s what I do and all of a sudden something comes along that you can’t solve.

“It’s definitely been the most trying, challenging time of my life. 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 £1.4 million in the bank that has now been halved. 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, so it’s heart-breaking you know these people are part of this team and this global family.

“If the government grants allow us to open at 30% then we still lose money. 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. That’s a lot of money.

“About seven months ago, well you couldn’t even think of a scenario where the Cavern wouldn’t be successful – I actually said that. It’s not just about what happened in 1962, 63, although without The Beatles the Cavern would have been long forgotten, you know we’ve had the Rolling Stones here, little Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Elton John. Adele launched her second album here live on the radio, Paul McCartney was here 12 months ago. We get people from all of the world, bands from all over the world, media from all over the world. 

“The history is continuous. It’s not a museum. It’s a very vibrant part of the Liverpool economy, which is why we’re reaching out at the end of August and reopening the Cavern for a week, virtually and bands from all around the world have sent messages and recorded sets. 

“We know we’re not going to make money, 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.”

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “The fact that the world-famous Cavern could close forever because of Covid-19 should bring home to the Government how much our hugely treasured music industry is in peril.

“This virus has caused unimaginable pain and grief but it’s proving to be an existential threat to our cultural scene. The prospect of losing a national jewel like The Cavern is a horrible scenario for all concerned, be they Beatles fans, music lovers and above all those whose livelihoods depend on it.

“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.

“I would urge the Government to expedite this issue with the utmost urgency to ensure that when lockdown is over our music venues and cultural way of life is there for us to return to and enjoy. again.”