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Deal done to save Manchester venues Gorilla and The Deaf Institute

By | Published on Wednesday 22 July 2020

Live music

As pressure builds on venues large and small around the UK, there was some good news yesterday after it was announced that Manchester venues Gorilla and The Deaf Institute should be saved thanks to a deal led by Tokyo Industries. That deal follows several days of talks to try to rescue the two venues, which also involved Tim Burgess from The Charlatans.

The Music Venue Trust has repeatedly warned that hundreds of grassroots music venues could go out of business as the COVID-19 shutdown continues.

In recent weeks the UK government has committed money to support those venues and announced that indoor gigs should be allowed again in England from next month. However, lots of uncertainties remain regarding the extent to which that funding will help, and whether ongoing social distancing rules will make most indoor shows unviable, even if they are in theory allowed to go ahead.

The current owners of Gorilla and The Deaf Institute – Mission Mars – announced last week that they would be unable to reopen the two venues because of the challenges created for the business by the pandemic. “This difficult decision has been made against the backdrop of COVID-19 and the enforced closure of all of our sites and with continued restrictions upon opening of live music venues”, the company’s CEO Roy Ellis added.

Though he also said that his company “would encourage any industry and music entrepreneurs who might be interested in this as an opportunity to please get in touch”. That led to talks involving Tokyo Industries, which runs clubs and venues in various UK cities, as well as independent gig promoters SSD and the aforementioned Burgess.

Having reached out to Mission Mars to begin negotiating a deal, Tokyo Industries founder Aaron Mellor told reporters: “It’s vital venues like Gorilla and The Deaf Institute are kept alive, the cultural fabric of our city centres depends on venues like these”.

“Over the weekend”, he added, “we have put together some great ideas with SSD Concerts and Tim Burgess to help save both venues and their existing operating style in a post-COVID world. We’re not so keen on this ‘new’ normal and want to keep the ‘old’ normal alive for when we all get through this”.

According to the Manchester Evening News, the two venues should operate pretty much as before under their new ownership, with a mixture of gigs and club nights. Staff at the two venues will also keep their jobs.

Confirming his company’s involvement in the rescue attempt, Steve Davis from SSD Concerts stated: “The music industry is facing some of its toughest times at the moment. Ever since I first promoted a Charlatans acoustic show at The Deaf Institute ten years ago, I have had a real love for the venue, so it will be an honour to work on the next chapter in their stories”.

And, he added, “Gorilla is one of my favourite places to watch gigs in the whole of the north west’s amazing music scene”.

Meanwhile, Mission Mars boss Ellis said of the new deal: “It’s really great news for our teams and the music-loving people of Manchester that both venues have found such a perfect new home. The bad news announcement last week regarding the closure plans galvanised an unprecedented level of interest from passionate operators from across the region and even beyond. I’m extremely grateful that we’ve been able to find a new and appropriate home for these amazing venues and people”.

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