‘Covid has helped us’ - how one venue is keeping entertainment going during the pandemic
- Credit: Archant
Bradley Fish reckons he has six or seven performers call him every day looking for work.
The Jube in Great Yarmouth is one of the few venues in the county where it is still possible to enjoy live entertainment - albeit in a different way to before.
But it has not come easy, or cheap - and every day brings new challenges and fresh scrutiny that Mr Fish meets head on with a determination and passion that most people would struggle to summon.
The 44-year-old is determined to make it work, or at least to satisfy himself that he did all he could for the business and his home town.
Tucked away on the fifth floor of Market Gates Shopping Centre the former Conservative club complex tipped as the “the new going out” 12 months ago was, in common with all other venues, forced to close in March.
Since then he has invested tens of thousands of pounds in remodelling the space, essentially a bar, pool and snooker centre, function room and karaoke booth - and creating a flower-filled outdoor terrace.
The return from lockdown went surprisingly well, with younger people finding their way to The Jube and 15,000 coming through the doors - but not in the past few weeks.
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“There has been a lot of investment and it’s going to be a long time before we see anything back, he said.
“If businesses are able to make it through the winter there will be some better times next summer and hopefully it will bring some fortune.”
Meanwhile the new 10pm finish and rule of six have seen takings plummet by 95pc - so he has gone back to the drawing board again to find new ways to bring people in.
The result is sit-down Saturdays and Sundays - cabaret-style live entertainment which is mostly free, with food and drink being served to a Covid-safe crowd from 6pm.
Acts include local singers, psychic Steven Treadaway and sets by soul legend Richard Routledge.
The bar has been stripped back and new diner-style tables put in with sneeze screens, and the menu boosted.
It is all safe, sociable, and officially approved - and a world away from how he started out a year ago.
“In many ways Covid has helped us,” he said.
“It has helped us to do things and shape the business differently.
“We now have the roof terrace and the opportunity to future-proof what we are doing.
“We have to keep pushing ahead until we are told we cannot and I am very proud of what we have here.
“We have a large, very flexible space we can easily adapt and focus on a different approach.
“Covid has made us think about how we can invite people in and generate some income, not that I’m saying it has been easy.
“We are able to provide some good entertainment within the guidelines, we have proved that it can be done and people do have the opportunity to go out.”
On the downside he has lost five door staff that are no longer needed and cannot give his remaining staff as many hours - leaving him and partner Laura to shoulder much of the work.
“It is very tiring, there have been lots of sleepless nights. The level of scrutiny is very stressful,” he added.
“We are very conscientious and very responsible. There are so many restrictions we are fighting against just to keep the door open and serve these customers that do want to come out.
“It’s a beautiful place. It is really spacious with excellent service, people were starting to hear about us - that was evident in the numbers.
“We are here to serve, not close the doors. We cannot do any more than what we are doing.
“We have put everything into this and literally chucked money at it and a lot of people do appreciate what we are trying to do.”