Business News Live Business Top Stories

Soho venue The Borderline to close this summer

By | Published on Tuesday 14 May 2019

The Borderline

Soho music venue The Borderline is to close this summer, current owner DHP Family has announced. Blaming “ever increasing rents, rising business rates and ongoing redevelopment plans for Soho”, the venue will shut its doors for good on 31 Aug.

DHP Family took over the venue in 2016, snapping it up after Live Nation bought independent music firm MAMA and sold off most of that company’s smaller venues. Following extensive refurbishment, DHP re-opened the space in February 2017, noting then that it was “one of the last surviving landmark live music venues in the heart of London’s Soho district”.

George Akins, MD of DHP, said yesterday: “This has been a difficult decision, but given intentions by the landlord to increase the rent significantly for a second time since we took it over in 2016 as well as plans to redevelop the building housing the Borderline, we now know the venue doesn’t have a long term future so it makes no sense for us to continue to invest”.

“We’ve had an amazing two years at Borderline with some fantastic shows and want to thank everyone for their support from agents, promoters and artists to all the thousands who have come to the gigs and club nights”, he went on. “We’ve put our all into trying to revive this iconic venue but unfortunately it has been impossible to turn into a sustainable operation due to so many external factors. This is a sad day for all of us who love live music and believe in grassroots venues”.

He concluded: “DHP is still committed to creating and running the best grassroots music venues in the country. However, I don’t see how it is possible in the West End when faced with all the difficulties from business rates, increasing rents and licensing pressure”.

Originally opened in the late 1980s, the 275 capacity Borderline could host smaller and newer acts right in the centre of London. Over the years artists who took to its stage included REM, Rage Against The Machine, Pearl Jam, PJ Harvey, Amy Winehouse and many more. Its closure confirms that it remains very challenging indeed to run grassroots venues in city centres, and is further proof of why the initiatives launched by Arts Council England and the Music Venue Trust at The Great Escape last week are urgently needed.

MVT has long stressed that ensuring a secure grassroots venue network needs support from across the music industry as well as government and other state-funded and charitable organisations. Though one of the issues faced by The Borderline – increased business rates – is something that the government could quickly help with on its own, by extended a pre-existing rates relief scheme for small businesses on the high street to music venues.

In a statement on Facebook, the MVT pointed out how, at TGE last week, “our Strategic Director made a speech at the launch of new funding from Arts Council England in which she specifically questioned when national government would act on business rates to stop the closure of much loved creative and community spaces. Less than 72 hours later, one of the last grassroots music venues left in Westminster announces that it is forced to close because of the undeliverable and unsustainable external costs placed upon it”.

“We wrote to [Chancellor Of The Exchequer] Philip Hammond last October telling him that inaction on business rates would cause the closure of dozens of vital grassroots music venues”, the MVT added. “The Treasury chose to do nothing. MPs of all parties insisted the government needed to take action. The Treasury did nothing. Questions have been asked in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Treasury has done nothing. The Borderline is closing. It’s a national disgrace that government is doing nothing to stop it”.

Another of DHP’s London venues, also a MAMA acquisition, is The Garage in Islington, which is hopefully facing a more secure future thanks to support from local government. Islington Council recently revealed that its local plan for the borough “proposes strong protection for a music venue to continue operation on the Garage site”, overcoming concerns that new property developments nearby could pose future licensing issues.

However, even at that venue challenges remain, Akins said earlier this month. “Business rate increases, rent increases and redevelopment plans are all hitting grassroots venues”, he noted, “and although the support of the council, TFL and the Mayor’s office is very important and significant there is still plenty of work to do. We all need to pull together to try and save as many of these venues as possible before it’s too late”.