âWE loved every minute of itâ.
This was the message from the bosses of a music and folk arts hall that is closing due to the “devastating” impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The team behind Odd Frog Tapas and Live Lounge in Barrow announced the closure of the place after three years of activity.
The Duke Street venue was established in July 2018 by the husband and wife team behind Hartley Restaurant in Dalton, Andrew and Lisa Turner, and local musician and businessman Jason Berry. The trio opened the business, located in the old Drawing Room building, to showcase live music in the city, with the aim of giving local bands and musicians the opportunity to perform on stage.
Mr Turner said that despite some initial concerns from locals, the place has been accepted and welcomed by the community.
âWhen we first opened it was a mix of positive and negative reviews,â said the 53-year-old.
âSome people said we needed it in town, others said live music was dead. But the town accepted us – we felt so humbled. We loved every minute of it.
âThe first year, we reached a milestone, the business was growing. In March of last year we had fantastic January and February. The community was supporting us after a few difficult months and we were finding our marks.
However, the company began to run into difficulties when restrictions were placed on concert halls during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Turner said, âThe concert halls haven’t been able to open to full capacity for 17 months now – we can’t put a group for 20 people to watch socially.
âWe opened briefly and it cost us a lot of money. Then we reopened, the second confinement took place and we had to close. The longer it lasted, the harder it was to justify it – the business is not sustainable.
âAnd even if we had reopened, all the income would have gone towards arrears and interest. We would have survived it if the government had supported us. It was very hard.
âWe’ve been open for three years and half of that was spent on containment. It is shameful.
âOur company was never created to make money. We wanted to operate a concert hall that features upcoming bands that have never performed on a real stage before. It is the loss of a large hall for musicians. Itâs a shame. ”
Mr Turner said he was “extremely proud” of his team’s accomplishments over the past three years.
He said: âI’ve worked with a lot of young bands and been in the music scene since I was 16 and I’ve never seen a city with so much songwriting ability.
âBut unfortunately every business, whatever it is, has to be sustainable. I’m extremely proud of Odd Frog, what the team has done and the bands that have played there.
“Barrow has such talent and I really hope the musicians are able to find a voice. I really hope these bands don’t give up and find a way to be heard.”