A Beresford Street-based nightclub left fighting for its survival as a result of continued closures and “limited and totally inadequate” support from the Government has launched a £15,000 crowdfunding appeal.
J-P Anquetil, Director of Rojo, says he hopes the funds will help the business stay afloat until night clubs are allowed to reopen.
Rojo’s nightclub, like other clubs in the island, has been shut since March 2020.
The closure is even more bittersweet for J-P, who has been at the helm for the past seven years, as it came off the back of their best year yet in 2019.
Video: Rojo could be forced to close permanently as the Government's support is not enough to cover the club's debts.
He told Express he had thought about launching the crowdfunding in December but that he had waited for the Government’s Visitor Attractions and Events Support Scheme to be announced in the hope it would help support the business.
However, he said the criteria is so strict, Rojo will only be able to qualify for “minimal support."
“The way it has been laid out, it is difficult to make a claim, and if you are able to make a claim it’s quite limited,” J-P said.
“The criteria is very tough, you need to have done a number of things, like applied for the Businesses Disruption Loan Guarantee Scheme, which I’ve done so I am able to claim but other businesses will be struggling to get anything out of it.
“Even if you are past that, what you can actually claim from, it’s so strict you are not able to apply for much.”
The scheme only enables businesses to claim support from December, but J-P said Rojo had accrued £45,000 of debts in the eight months prior.
Pictured: Rojo has been closed since March 2020.
Rojo was able to open its roof terrace, after adapting to provide food, which they didn’t previously do. While the terrace normally has a capacity of 500 people, only 40 to 80 were allowed last year as a result of the physical distancing guidelines. Despite that, J-P said they managed to get 30% of their business, leaving a 70% downturn.
“The States' payroll co-funding scheme has been gratefully accepted as will any funds received from the Visitor Attractions and Events Scheme, but it falls a long way short of the support required by those businesses that have been forced to close since March,” J-P wrote on the crowdfunding page.
“We are very grateful for the support that has been given but it is too little too late,” J-P said. “We were promised it in July, then September, then October, then November. And then it comes in January and you realise it’s not really providing anywhere near enough.
“Part of the problem is that we do not know how long this is going to last. If we were reopening next week, I might say, possibly, maybe we could be fine, we could try and take most of the debts. But this could go on until April, May or June and we have no confidence that the Government will do anything else quickly.”
Pictured: "We are very grateful for the support that has been given but it is too little too late,” J-P said.
Writing on the crowdfunding page, J-P noted the support from the Economic Development Minister, Lyndon Farnham, but added there is “much resistance within the States to give any assistance to the nightclub and events industry that has been forced to close."
“We’ve borrowed from everywhere that we can to keep the club going during this difficult time. This was done in the belief that we would be getting financial aid from the States earlier in the year, but it was continually delayed,” he added.
“The constant dangling of the carrot and then taking that carrot away has meant that we have continued to borrow from the bank, personal funds and friends. We have run out of options.”
While a crunch meeting was due to be held yesterday between Government officers and hospitality representatives to discuss a support package for cafés, bars and restaurants, J-P noted they had been able to trade over the summer before being shut down in early December.
“We are a nightclub - the biggest chunk of our business has been closed all the way through, it’s the same for the event sector,” he said. “We are in a worse boat than hospitality.”
Pictured: "The closure of Rojo would be a “devastating blow to the island’s scene”, J-P said.
With only a handful of nightclubs left in the island, J-P says the closure of Rojo would be a “devastating blow to the island’s scene”, in addition to leading 15 to 20 staff to lose their casual and full-time jobs.
“There used to be 10 clubs, there’s almost nothing now, it’s quite sad actually,” J.P said. “Jersey was really well known for its night life 20 years ago but now it’s gone. A lot of it has to do with the lack of support from the states in general. Our licensing law is 50 years old as well but that’s another story.”
J-P is hoping to raise £15,000 which will help cover “immediate outstanding critical debts and interest payments that remain unpaid” as well as staff wages which have to be paid a month in advance before a claim can be made under the payroll scheme despite the club having no income. Part of the funds will also go towards settling some of the loans and sums Rojo has borrowed during the pandemic.
J-P has thought of different incentives for those who donate, including a supporters' mural designed by an artist which will be displayed in the club, as well as a ‘Save Our Club’ tee-shirt.
“We cannot wait any longer for support so I I thought we would appeal to the kindness of people who have come to Rojo and want to come back.”
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