In what could be a worrying starting gun being fired across our city, property developer One Phoenix Place is pushing to turn one of Brighton’s old live music hubs into a cluster of multiple-occupancy accommodation units, stating that such venues are no longer financially feasible post-covid.
Brighton and Hove City Council denied the firm’s initial proposal for the site, but this is now being appealed. In its original application One Phoenix Place stated rather worryingly:
“It is becoming increasingly clear that covid-19 has greatly impacted upon the pub sector and as the pandemic continues such impact will only lead to further closures of such businesses in this declining sector.
“It is hard to envisage how in this current economic climate, there would be increased interest in pub operations, particularly given the significant costs for refurbishment.”
In response to this, a local residents group is petitioning to have The Freebutt saved from this fate.
The Phoenix Residents Association wants the site to be declared an “asset of community value” and has started its very own Save The Freebutt campaign.
The group has been quick to extol the local importance of the venue, which has laid empty for a decade, and voiced fears that the site is being eyed up as a private property cash cow and little else.
One proposal for the pub would turn part of it into a museum showcasing its deep historical significance and storied musical heritage.
Local councillors are on board with the community project, which considering they are the body that failed to support it in the first place is a bit of a U-turn to say the least.
It is all worrying nonetheless. Due to a crushing lack of Governmental support during the Covid pandemic swathes of live music venues and pubs are facing bleak futures and as expected the vultures are beginning to circle.
The sanitisation of Brighton and Hove has long been a worry and the current climate appears set only to exacerbate this. The closure of The Freebutt some 10 years ago was met with widespread castigation in the city, with a handful of complainants doing away with a veritable institution of the Brighton music scene.
The demise of the venue set an awful precedent – that the moans and groans of joyless individuals areenough to shutter live music venues, that property ultimately trumps culture.