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Sub Club crowdfund cited legal fees to fight a development director’s family sold land to

Sub Club is concerned the development will lead to noise complaints impacting the venue's ability to host events

  • Patrick Hinton
  • 14 August 2020
Sub Club crowdfund cited legal fees to fight a development director’s family sold land to

Sub Club launched a crowdfunding campaign last month aiming to raise £90,000 to financially support itself through the economic crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crowdfund performed beyond expectations and in the end the Glasgow venue raised £189,620 in 28 days, with 4339 supporters backing the campaign.

Read this next: Sub Club launches crowdfund to save itself from permanent closure

One of the reasons given for the club’s urgent need to raise funds in the description of the crowdfund was spending “over £45,000 on legal expenses fighting a lengthy battle to protect the club over noise issues arising from the proposed Wetherspoons Hotel development next door to the club.” This refers to plans to develop the vacant site next door to Sub Club at 24-30 Jamaica Street and the upper floors of the neighbouring Wetherspoons pub the Crystal Palace into a hotel.

In 2018 Sub Club released a statement saying: “We consider that this decision to consent planning approval is unsound, that it leaves a serious threat to the very existence of the Sub Club”. People connected to the club cited concerns about there not being “adequate soundproofing in the building” to stop potential noise complaints.

An investigation by The Ferret has found that it was a family member of a Sub Club director who sold the site to JD Wetherspoon in a deal worth £1.15 million in 2014.

Records from Scotland’s Land Information Service show that Sub Club director Barry Price’s parents bought the site for £800,000 in 2007, The following year Martha Price became the sole owner and in the same year her son Barry Price became a Sub Club director with a 40 per cent stake in the club. The 24-30 Jamaica Street land remained vacant from this time through to 2014, when the site was sold to JD Wetherspoon for £1.15 million.

An application had been made in 2008 to develop a hotel on the site but this was later withdrawn.

Speaking to The Ferret, Barry Price said: “My parents bought the vacant site next to Sub Club in 2007 and gained outline planning permission for a hotel development the following year. The site then fell dormant following the 2008 global financial crash after which my parents were unable to successfully progress suitable proposals.”

He additionally said that in 2013 Sub Club had worked on plans to subdivide the vacant site with Wetherspoons to build a smoking area and beer gardens, which the pub chain rejected and instead requested to purchase the site to build a ‘Wetherspoons Training Academy’, which was accepted by the site's owners.

In 2019 Wetherspoons amended its development proposal and resubmitted new plans for developing a beer garden on the vacant site and 28-room hotel on the vacant floors above the Crystal Palace pub. The company’s initial plans, which had been accepted, included building a 69-room nine-storey hotel and rooftop bar on the vacant site.

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The club’s supporters have said the scaled back hotel plans still pose a threat to the club due to the possibility of noise complaints and that adequate soundproofing is necessary to counteract this.

Barry Price said to The Ferret: “We have always welcomed the development of the site, which has been an eyesore for more than 20 years and does no favours to ourselves or other neighbouring businesses.

“A properly designed and constructed hotel would most certainly be of benefit to the area, and with due consideration given to noise mitigation from the outset, this would be entirely consistent with our own best interests.”

A minority stakeholder in Sub Club, Usman Khushi whose family’s personal wealth was estimated to be £90 million by the Sunday Times Rich List in 2017, recently faced backlash for posting photos of taking a private jet with Peggy Gou days before Sub Club launched its crowdfund campaign.

At the time he said to Glasgow Times: "I took on a minority stake in the Sub Club last year because it became available out of a need for support and funding which I could provide at that time. I’ve never made a penny out of the club and never will – I’ve only put money in.

"I was a guest on a trip to Berlin last weekend where we travelled on a private plane and I shared this on my Instagram. I don’t own a plane and didn’t charter one personally, but in hindsight, I can understand why these posts taken together, out of context, have caused some confusion and are insensitive, which I regret. We live and learn."

In a statement sent to Mixmag, Sub Club Managing Director Mike Grieve said: "The fact that members of Barry’s family previously owned the spare ground adjacent to the Sub Club from 2008 to 2014 has no bearing whatever on the operation of the club nor on the profitability or otherwise of the business.

"It is also irrelevant to the aims of the Crowdfunder which we have been completely transparent about. Our campaign was launched to try and ensure the survival of the club beyond Covid-19 and to support our staff through this crisis, and that remains our whole focus.

"Separately, the legal action against the planning decision was launched for the same basic reason in 2018 - to protect the future of the club in the face of a deeply flawed grant of planning permission. Mentioning this in the context of the crowd funder was only intended to illustrate the gravity of the challenges the club has faced in recent times, and clearly there is no suggestion that funds raised are being used to offset legal bills incurred previously.

"The directors of the company have taken absolutely no money from the crowd funder, and in fact continue to seek solutions to the other financial challenges involved in keeping the business alive in an ever evolving crisis.

"Even when operating at maximum capacity, the club genuinely exists on incredibly tight margins. Nobody has ever made a fortune from operating the Sub Club. In fact we all work incredibly hard to promote new music and emerging talent, particularly locally, along with the core values of human decency that we all passionately believe in."

[Via: The Ferret]

Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter

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