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The Tuppenny Lock-Out Diary #02

The Music Venue Trust, Live Music & Us!

Hey all, Ed again! When we set up The Tuppenny, in many people’s eyes we probably had the worlds worst business plan and went about everything arse-about-face. But, for us, the idea was to create a place that we wanted to be. It was that simple. We were fed up with the proliferation of carbon copy plastic bars serving the same obvious drinks to people that we quite frankly did not want to hang around with. Big companies selling even bigger companies’ products to people who could not care what they were drinking. People who went along with the crowd and had no independent thought. Your basic sheep, essentially. We wanted to serve drinks from independent producers who cared more about quality than cost, drinks that were properly handled and served by people who cared what they were selling you and knew their stuff. We really did not want to deal with all the problems and hassle that comes from running a mainstream bar and all the dickheads and menacing atmosphere that cheap booze brings.

Alongside this, there was always going to be music. With backgrounds like ours, that was a given. Linda had spent over 9 years managing the bar at music venues The Victoria and 12 Bar and I had been putting gigs on and running festivals for years as well as writing about and releasing music. Then, there is Jamie, who has had a life immersed in music, playing in local bands, touring the country in those bands, sound engineering, touring even further afield as a professional session player for bigger musicians and of course, a long stint at Holmes Music equipping the areas musicians and repairing their instruments. It is fair to say we couldn’t not have some form of live music in our new place.

What kind of music that was got partly determined by the space we had. The Tuppenny is not big, is pretty much one room, with low ceilings and residential flats directly above. Anything that was too loud would not have worked – we would have had a litany of noise complaints, deaf customers and staff and besides, a five-piece band with full drums takes up a fair amount of space, leaving little room for customers. So, smaller acoustic based set ups it was then. We all liked a wide variety of music so this was no issue and I had plenty of contacts on the circuit built up over the years. We picked Thursdays initially as a music night, as Fridays and Saturdays we had no need to attract custom, it was already coming and we consequently didn’t have the space available for music. We went with just 2 sessions a month, both to keep costs down as we found our way and built an audience, and so as to ensure we kept the quality levels high and people interested. Of course, in keeping with our desire to be a little different and more artisan, we only book artists who perform their own material, not covers acts. Again, the sort of music we would go and see ourselves.

We have found ourselves part of a wider music circuit, attracting artists not just from the local talent pool, but artists who tour the country, people making a living from playing their own songs. We eventually got brave and have had bands with drummers (small set ups, admittedly) and widened our musical scope as best we can within our physical limitations – some of our favourite shows have been when we have encouraged bands to strip back their sound, reinterpret what they do and tailor it to suit our space and our audience. We have hosted folk, americana, blues, soul, indie, dream-pop, roots, afrobeat, drone, punk, electronica, rock, all in way that suited our vibe. We even extended music to include a monthly Sunday afternoon chilled session and host several sessions of local festival The Swindon Shuffle every July. There are not many places in town that you would find the kind of artists we host (hello to our friends at The Beehive!) and that is perfect for us.

Of course, since the Covid-19 enforced lockdown, all our lovingly curated live music events have been cancelled (many to be rearranged when possible). This is not ideal of course, but can’t be helped. As I noted in an earlier blog, we quickly converted ourselves to an online store with home delivery (and now click-and-collect), so we are not reliant on any income generated by the live events. However, the artists themselves are and so are a lot of our peers on the circuit. Which is why, because we see ourselves as having a wider responsibility within this live music community, we have been following but not getting involved with the current #saveourvenues campaign from the Music Venues Trust (MVT). Whilst we do not yet need this kind of support, others do, which is why I wanted to highlight it and bring it to your attention.

The MVT is a UK registered charity which acts to protect, secure and improve Grassroots Music Venues. These venues have played a crucial role in the development of British music over the last 60 years, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills. In a nutshell – if bands like Muse, Arctic Monkey’s, Radiohead or even Ed Sheeran hadn’t cut their teeth and honed their craft at these venues, then they wouldn’t be where they are today, selling millions of records and tickets worldwide and bringing millions of pounds into the economy. These issues are not new however, the MVT was founded back in 2014, way before Covid -19 was a thing, because existing pressures on these venues such as noise abatement issues, building developments, and financial stresses on audiences have meant that many have already closed, or were at extreme risk of closure way before the current, government ordered, closedown. They have been sorting out legal representation for venues, providing experts in acoustics to help with cases and were instrumental in pushing through parliament the “Agent of Change” legislation that now requires any developer building in the vicinity of a music venue to bear responsibility for soundproofing their development or improving the venues existing soundproofing.

Since the closedown they have upped the ante somewhat as there are now over 500 venues at imminent risk of closure and organised the large scale #saveourvenues crowdfunder (which at time of writing was sitting at well over £1 million raised). Additionally, they are helping link artists with venues to put on and promote to a wider audience fundraising live streams (including some higher profile artists – big props to Frank Turner who has been instrumental in all this). It is hoped all of this will ensure these venues can survive the shutdown and last through until the live music machine grinds back into gear again, something that is looking less and less likely to happen this year.

I am sure many people wonder what all the fuss is about. So what if some grubby little music venues close down? However, just a small amount of forward thinking would reveal that were these venues to close, there would be no next generation of bands and artists coming through. No fresh new Coldplay (not the worst thing ever suggested), Foals or Royal Blood. Hell, even the Beatles and the Stones cut their teeth in small dingy venues back in the day. Just imagine a world without any of this music in it. Who would be headlining festivals? We would be stuck in a world full of anodyne, written-to-order pappy pop nonsense. The result would be no different to removing the foundations of a building. Soon enough the whole thing will collapse, even the exclusive penthouses on the top floor.

So, whilst you wait for the great re-opening of pubs, bars and venues, spend a little of your time looking at what the MVT are doing, and if you really care about live music, at any level, even if you only ever go to big corporate festivals and gigs, do something to help save the grassroots venues as they are the lifeblood of the industry and without them there would eventually be no Glastonbury, or O2 Arena shows. Chuck a few quid into the crowdfunder, or into the pot at one of the excellent online gigs that are going on at the moment. It all counts.

The Music Venue Trust are found here: http://musicvenuetrust.com/

More on #saveourvenues campaign is here: https://saveourvenues.co.uk/#/

 

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The Tuppenny Lock-Out Diary #1

 

Hey all, Ed here just with a little bit of an update from us at The Tuppenny.

One of the few positives we have had from these crazy times is getting to know you lot better as our deliveries have taken us to your homes, and we have had a little more time to be constructive and interactive on social media. You are a very important part of what we do, in fact, the most important part – we don’t see ourselves as a business that sells drinks, we are a business that provides you with a social space to be in, to meet friends, make friends and generally do a lot of the things that make us human and build a caring, fun, supportive and constructive society. The booze just funds that! We believe it is important that you guys feel as much of this place as we do, therefore we wanted to keep you updated so you know where we are at during this crazy time, what we are doing and why. Apologies for the length of this post, but I felt it would be good for you to also know what is going on in our wider industry as a whole and how this affects us.

The hospitality industry in the UK is facing its biggest challenge ever. It is the 3rd largest employer in the country and contributes over £70 billion to the UK economy, and yet for the period of lockdown it has almost ceased to exist. The response by different businesses has been diverse to say the least. Some seem to have almost disappeared, with no effort to find alternative income streams. The shutters went down in March for them and have stayed that way since. Whilst others, like here at The Tuppenny, have been dynamic in response, setting up online retail and delivery options and more. For us, this was as much about staying in people’s minds as it was generating and income (ultimately, we are only making around 25% of what we would normally expect to do), but it is doing enough to keep us afloat for the time being, and is keeping us in touch with our customers. This is also why we quickly found ways online to keep the music quiz going, even adding a general knowledge quiz to the calendar and working on live music streams with the Swindon Shuffle team. We wanted to keep you all entertained even if we were all sat at home as we see ourselves very much part of a community, and therefore with responsibility to the wellbeing of those also in it.

For those businesses who have vanished from our lives for the time being, one must assume that they are wholly reliant on the measures put in place by the government that they claimed would protect hospitality business and jobs and they hope that these handouts will be enough to enable them to reappear when lockdown and social distancing ends. In some situations that is exactly what the measures will enable, whilst in others it is unlikely we will see these business again in a way we recognise. We obtained a grant based on our businesses rateable value, which will go a long way to keeping cash flowing for us and hopefully avoid us needing to get into debt to keep the business afloat, but any site with a rateable value of £51k wasn’t eligible, neither were businesses that were housed as part of another business so didn’t have their own account with the council. It is surprising how many pubs and bars have such high rate valuations (one of the few advantages to being smaller and having no outside trading space I guess, much as we moan about this in the summer!). These businesses are therefore reliant on the government loan schemes (which must be repaid) and any business interruption insurance pay-outs they qualify for.

Here is where some problems occur. A new survey by trade body UKHospitality has highlighted some serious gaps in the level of support being provided. About half (48%) of businesses have applied for loans, but the majority of those receiving a response (57%) have had their bids turned down. Government-imposed state aid rules account for more than a quarter (26%) of rejections, alongside banks telling businesses they have enough capital (28%). Almost three-quarters (74%) of businesses have claimed, or intend to claim, for business interruption insurance. However, fewer than 1% that have claimed have received pay-outs. Only about a quarter of eligible businesses had received the hospitality grants, a scheme that UKHospitality was urging be extended to more companies. In terms of workforce, redundancies have been kept to a minimum (2%) so far, with most businesses furloughing staff, accounting for 84% of sector employees, as we have done, although this process has been slow and complex so far.

In essence, this report shows that despite government assurances that businesses will be kept viable, in reality things are still pretty dire, and more work needs to be done to make sure as many businesses as possible can survive this crisis. The Hospitality industry was the first to be hit by restrictions in trade, has been the hardest hit and likely will suffer for the longest. We and our peers are in this for the long haul. Whilst everyone is rightly looking to how the economy and the industry restarts in a way that avoids further health issues authorities also need to ensure the support measures already announced are getting through to businesses.

Looking forwards, if the hospitality sector is told it can reopen, but with continued social distancing measures in place, (this has has been raised as something that could be lasting till the end of the year) we could come into potentially a much more dangerous scenario where the government decides because we have been told we can reopen it can end the furlough scheme and the other help it has provided. This would be disastrous, and push some businesses that have battled through under, resulting in permanent job losses. Looking at our trading space for example, rearranging the furniture to see what two metres between tables looks like is pretty eye-opening and shows that should we reopen under these circumstances we would have a capacity probably of around only a half a dozen or so tables. Add this to the other measures necessary to keep everyone safe and it would be almost pointless from an income perspective. As a sector the more we entertain social distancing measures the more we give government a sense we are prepared to live with them. We are better being closed for longer if it means we can safely reopen, in as near to an uncompromised form as possible.

So, for the time being we continue to operate our “Deliverbrew” service via our online shop and wait to see what else happens. We cannot thank you all enough for sticking with us through this. Your continued custom is the difference between us being viable or not as a business (we desperately hope to avoid getting into debt during this period) and being able to reopen pretty much as you remember us, with those lovely familiar faces behind the bar. We are acutely aware that supermarkets etc sell beer and wine far cheaper than we do, but on the whole are selling inferior products and brands, so we cannot express how appreciative we are of you all thumbing a nose to the big boys and buying local and keeping us and the independent suppliers we buy from going (the brewers etc are suffering as much as anyone). It is businesses like us and our suppliers that are rooted in the local community that have been working to look after and will help to rebuild society.

Yes we are using some of this down time to do those niggly jobs that annoyed us for ages before closedown, and there will be further changes and improvements before you can come back in I am sure (the place currently looks more like a small warehouse than a bar). We are also investigating other ways of bring in money and spreading the Tuppenny word so if anyone fancies some Tuppenny merch like t-shirts, tote bags, bottle openers, badges and stickers let us know as we are thinking of doing some, and equally if you have any ideas that you have thought would work for us, please do get in touch, this business is as much about you as it is us. We are determined to stick this out to welcome you back at some point, in whatever version of us you find eventually!

Stay Safe,

Ed, The Tuppenny

Wish You Were Beer WEB

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Coronavirus / Covid-19 Trading Update III

deliverbrew-01

As the situation we’re all in changes so rapidly, we’ve had to adapt and modify our own business model accordingly. As the advice from government is for us all, to as best as possible, stay home and only leave the house if it’s absolutely necessary, we feel it’s only right, and in the best interests of everybody in our community, and for our own safety that we keep the walk in retail side of The Tuppenny closed in a “Lock-Out”, despite the categorisation of off-licences as an “essential service”. So, for the time being, The Tuppenny is a delivery only service (which we have nicknamed “Deliverbrew”).

We are continuing to offer this delivery only service to ensure you have all the essentials you need to survive an extended period home schooling / stuck with your hormonal teenagers / unable to escape the partner you suddenly don’t get on with. But, we are taking things on a day to day basis as advice changes, and are taking as many precautions as possible.

We are only going to be delivering on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with orders needing to be with us by 6pm the day before. Every order needs to be made via our new webshop to keep things clearer and more secure (sorry, no more Facebook or Telephone orders). All product is being disinfected as it is packed and staff will be freshly gloved as they pack and for each delivery. We will leave the delivery on your doorstep, knock and back away severl metres to make sure you are home to receive it (although, where else are you going to be?) We think we will be safer than getting your groceries via supermarket home delivery.

Of course, as recommendations change, so will we.

Further news is also coming on the quiz and other things to entertain you as you while away the weeks behind closed doors. We’ve got your backs folks (from a safe distance of course…)

Stay safe and much love,

Team Tuppenny.

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Coronavirus / Covid-19 Trading Update II

*IMPORTANT PUBIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT*

I am sure many of you just heard the latest announcements from the government. Consequently we will be closing the bar at 6pm tonight, and re-opening as and when we are allowed to. We hope to be able to survive this and ride it out, and come back as soon as we can. In the meantime, please bear a thought for our wonderful staff, who we are trying to look after as best we can.

We are going to continue to operate as a delivery and take away business so you can still get your Lock-Out slice of Tuppenny’ness in your lives – the online shop is on it’s way with an increased selection. In the meantime use hello@thetuppenny.com or messagenger here on Facebook to get in touch with delivery orders. We will follow this message up with our takeaway plan as soon as we have thought of one….

In the meantime, stay safe, metaphorically hug your loved ones close and WASH YOUR HANDS….

See you on the other side for one hell of a party Team Tuppenny!

Jamie, Hayley, Linda, Ed xx

P.S., yes, we are aware we spelt public wrong…

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Coronavirus / Covid-19 Trading Update

With the advice yesterday afternoon from the PM that the public are being asked to think carefully about how much time they spend in public places like pubs, we feel it’s sensible to reduce our opening hours. As the vast majority of our daytime customers are of an older generation, and therefore a higher risk demographic, as of Tuesday 17th March, we will be opening from 4pm.
We take our responsibility towards public safety really seriously and we’d ask you do the same. Please keep in mind all of the advice we’ve been given and if you feel you need to stay home, please do. If however you would like to come out and spend your time in our bar, there are a few things you could do to help us keep everybody as safe as possible. If you’re able to, could you use contactless payments where possible, and please could you bring your own empties back to the bar? Also please don’t be offended if you see the team handling your empties with disposable gloves. You’ll notice a bit of an upsurge in things being sprayed and wiped (sorry for the lemon fresh scent all over the place!) It mind sound trivial, but some of the ever popular board and table top games will be going away for a little while, you’ve no idea how difficult it is to sanitise Jenga blocks and Connect 4 counters! and again, please bear with us if your waiting at the bar while we wash our hands after wiping down your tables.
We can’t thank you all enough for the messages of support we’ve received recently and we hope to see as many of you as possible in what is quite a challenging time for our fledgling little indie business. To those of you who we won’t see for a while (including co-owner Linda, who is voluntarily isolating after a recent holiday to Spain) we hope it isn’t too long until our paths cross again.
Stay safe, look after yourselves, and each other. Much love, Jamie, Linda, Hayley, Ed and all the rest of Team Tuppenny. X
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We Got Jobs!

Bar Vacancy Poster Dec19SMALL

Yes, we need some lovely bar staff to supplement the current batch of legends, both for the Christmas period and beyond that. Hours are mostly evenings and weekends and involve serving customers, stocking the bar and keeping the place looking all spick and span (so over 18’s only we are afraid). Having the right personality, drive and passion for good drinks is more important than bar experience, as we are a bit different to your average bar…)

Chuck us your CV to hello@thetuppenny.com so we can see what you have done before and know how to get in touch.

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Christmas and New Year Opening Hours 2019

Xmas Opening 2019 WEB

We are open some extra hours over our normal timetable over the seasonal period, but equally, closed on some day we are normally open. The full list is below.

  • Monday 23rd Dec – 2pm to 11pm
  • Tuesday 24th Dec – 11am to 1am
  • Wednesdy 25th Dec – Closed
  • Thursday 26th Dec – 2pm to 10pm (chilled out recovery session)
  • Friday 27th Dec – 11am to Midnight
  • Saturday 28th Dec – 11am to Midnight
  • Sunday 29th Dec – 12pm to 11pm (Music Quiz 5.30pm to 8pm ish)
  • Monday 30th Dec – Closed
  • Tuesday 31st Dec – 11am to 1am (Party Night with DJ sets)
  • Wednesday 1st Jan – Closed

Then back to normal….