London’s oldest gig venue saved thanks to “pioneering” idea to scrap business rate

London’s oldest gig venue has been saved thanks to a “pioneering” idea to scrap its business rates.

The tiny 100 Club beneath Oxford Street holds a place in the hearts of everyone from Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Mick Jagger to KT Tunstall, and once hosted Louis Armstrong.

The 78-year-old venue, which opened during the Second World War, has been “on the verge of closing” for years and is one of only a few live music venues left in the West End.

Like dozens of gig venues across the UK’s cities, it has struggled with rising rents. And 2017 brought a 53 per cent increase in its business rates (the tax on non-residential property), which brought the club’s annual bill up to £76,000.

Its owner Jeff Horton (pictured above) — whose father bought and renamed the club in 1958 — announced it has been saved thanks to Westminster council awarding a 100 per cent cut to its rates.

The 59-year-old from Islington said: “We have been on the verge of closing for years. I never thought this day would come.

“When you have this kind of heritage, it’s worth holding onto, especially in a city that’s changed beyond recognition.

“I’m led to believe this is the first venue in the UK, and the first business in Westminster, to ever be given this award.

“It’s lovely to have been given this kind of recognition and acknowledgement of everything that’s gone here in the past.”

Mr Horton, who started working at the club for his dad in 1984 after being made redundant from British Aerospace, said he was more excited by “the bigger picture”.

“The thing that excites me most is that Westminster Council has now set a precedent,” he said. “This will mean that pressure can be brought to bear on local authorities across the country to follow suit. This could be an amazing legacy.”

Soho ward councillor Tim Barnes said: “We would happily look at offering this to other venues in the borough. It’s going to be a small number of venues, in order to maintain a core number of gig spaces that fulfil that grassroots criteria.

“We hope other cities start to pick this up, and it makes sense for other London boroughs to do this too.”

The council said eligibility for venues to get the rates cut would depend on the venue having local “grassroots music” as their “prime purpose”, being a non-profit organisation and on the Greater London Authority’s register of “grassroots music venues”.

A study by the London Mayor’s office found that 40 per cent of London’s music venues closed between 2004 to 2014.

The news about the 100 Club, which has also been backed by Frank Turner and Enter Shikari, came just a few months after Soho venue The Borderline closed in 2019.

In recent years, London has also lost The Astoria, Madame Jojo’s, Plastic People, and the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre.

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