Don’t let Glasgow get a piece of Cake Shop

Edinburgh Evening News Thursday 30th March 2017

Edinburgh venues were certainly in the news last week as it was announced that cult New York venue Cake Shop was actively looking to open in Edinburgh in the same week Electric Circus was to close.

I had, of course, mentioned in a previous column that with ties to Scotland I had heard of interest from the bar/café/venue Cake Shop now they had finally been priced out of their home of 11 years in the Lower East Side, but it was still a surprise when Nick Bodor, who ran Cake Shop with his wife Judy and brother Andy, got in touch to ask if I could help them look for somewhere in Edinburgh.

One thing that is obvious, but I had never really given great consideration to, was that for a venue to simply put on gigs and do nothing else it needs not just people willing to come out on a rainy Tuesday night but a supply of bands to play that simply isn’t there anymore.

Clubs are at least regular but then they often eat into the time available for gigs, with many gigs particularly at weekends having a 10pm finish.

Places like Cab Vol and La Belle Angele have filled up their day time with everything from dance classes to life drawing but venues are sometimes a victim of their own fame and people tend to think of them only as a place to go to at night.

Even a well known venue just being open as a bar serving food during the day can not necessarily transfer the busy nights into equally busy days. Even on my rare trips to London I’m always amazed at how quiet cool pubs that are also well known venues can be during the day.

In this regard Cake Shop would come to Edinburgh with a distinct advantage. Those who know its reputation would consider it a place they would be as likely to visit during the day as at night and those that are unaware of its worldwide reputation will not have that expectation that it is just a place to go to at night and also give it a chance.

That isn’t to say it wouldn’t face all the problems others face these days of getting people out at night and away from their TV screens and once out actually spending enough money to pay the many overheads. Folk are so obsessed with their phones and being online now that whether they are making a coffee last for hours during the day or nursing a drink at night it seems to be forgotten that providing people with a place to eat, drink, meet friends and maybe see a band does not come cheap.

With an international reputation it would certainly be a destination for tourists though they have always prided themselves on being a neighbourhood bar for locals so hopefully they would get a good mix of folk. Luckily they have even more strings to their bow. Comedy nights also became very popular at Cake Shop NYC and artists were encouraged to get involved too.

Most of all what I think gives them such a good chance of making things work over here is that they are very hands-on and incredibly enthusiastic. They have no expectation that things will be easy but they are confident that with all they have to offer they will compliment what Edinburgh has already and let’s face it that is getting less and less on almost a monthly basis.

They always said they would never get rich doing Cake Shop but it was something Nick, Judy and Andy all loved as did so many of those who visited the place. Such is their reputation that they have not been short of offers from those wanting them to get involved in other projects and it really would certainly help if they received some encouragement to come to Edinburgh.

What worries me most is summed up in an enquiry I had yesterday. “Would they consider coming to Glasgow”. Don’t let that happen Edinburgh!


Money’s too tight to mention for music backer

I hear Edinburgh may be getting its own Music Champion, which, approached correctly, could be a very good idea indeed. My biggest concern is that even when Edinburgh council do embrace an issue they move at a pace that is so slow that events are almost guaranteed to overtake it.

A couple of times recently when dealing with the council they have genuinely considered two years to be nothing in “council time”, which is odd given a council’s own lifespan. Edinburgh needs to meet all the issues being faced by venues and the wider music industry head on and we can only hope that after the May elections these issues are given some priority given that there are of course more serious matters to be dealt with too.

Speaking of music champions, it is obvious that both classical music and the visual arts have their sponsors and benefactors and by coincidence, recently a couple of people have asked the question “where are the financial champions” for popular music, given how much money big pop stars make. Now I’m not exactly sure who they were thinking of and really should have thought to ask, but though I can see their point, while there is a history of wealthy families supporting the arts, there is little evidence of those artists that have made their fortunes directly putting their money back into helping others get started.

Don’t get me wrong, many do a lot of charitable work and of course there is a mountain of lottery funding aimed at young people already, but the simple stuff like a big band keeping their local record shop or venue going is not something I can ever remember coming across.

Maybe this is something that could be a UK thing. Bands could apply to the Radiohead Foundation for help or God help us, maybe one day there will be an Ed Sheeran school for buskers. Still not sure who they were thinking of for Scotland. Maybe they were counting Rod Stewart!

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