Legendary Bristol music venue The Cooler closes down
One of Bristol’s best-loved music venues The Cooler has closed down, and is to be re-opened as a commercial, student-orientated nightclub.
The new owners, two young men with a background in promotions, backed by a London investor, completed a takeover deal on Monday.
The pair, who are from Bristol, hope to re-open the Park Street venue in time for the start of the new university term.
It will be renamed Forty Eight, in reference to its street number.
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New owner Dale, who declined to give his surname, told This is Bristol: “We would like to change it by moving towards a popular student venue. There will be more well-recognised, commercial acts.
“We are not looking to alienate people that already come here but make it a more viable business. So therefore we are going to be looking at appealing to the universities.”
Reflecting on the closure of the alternative venue, Dale said: “It’s really sad to be honest that the style of venue is going to be changed. I guess in a location like this costs are rising a lot compared to other venues on the street.”
Dale insisted he and his business partner Dante hope to retain much of the usual clientele, but later acknowledged “it’s probably going to be bad news for the people who usually come here.”
Asked about what people with tickets for scheduled Cooler gigs can expect, Dale said: “There are structural issues so we are not looking to honour the existing gigs.
“I have no idea but my advice to them would be to get in touch with the event organisers.
“They are definitely finding alternative venues, like the Thekla and The Fleece.”
According to The Cooler's Facebook page, Nine Black Alps will now play at Exchange, Old Market. All tickets remain valid.
Meanwhile the Twisted Wheel show later this month has been moved to the Thekla, with doors opening at 7pm. All tickets remain valid.
Describing the new venue, which will open seven days a week, Dale said: “We want to differentiate ourselves and distance ourselves from the businesses around us.
“We want it to be an enjoyable atmosphere and relaxing, we want to avoid the pretension you often find in other venues. There’ll be no stag or hen do’s.
“We’re creating something that can compete quite directly with Mbargo, The Bunker and Joe Public’s.
“It’ll be more open, lighter and cleaner, but not a super-premium venue. Somewhere where people can have fun and let themselves go and not be judged.
“We want it to be down to earth.”
Dale explained the previous owners had not planned to sell the venue. “We were particularly keen on this space,” he said. “We explored a lot of places and this was never on the market.
“We’ve been in discussions since December. It was a lot of us approaching him [the previous owner] and making a lot of advances to be honest.
“He probably saw it was as an offer on the table but something that may be a back-up plan, but over time we managed to convince him that we should be the ones to take over.”
Turning to the closure of The Cooler, Dale said: “The turnover and demand for that sort of entertainment is not big enough in this location for it to be a viable business.
“Trade has been affected since about 2008. The owner of the business that was here before decided that it was time to move on. It was also a personal decision in his own life.”
Dale later added: “The previous owner asked us to keep the business model that he had, and we did say that we would consider it, but after reviewing the accounts and performance, and thinking of the long-term business, it was not viable.”
Reflecting on The Cooler’s history and their new “vision” for the venue, Dale said: “We tried to make the two fit together, but they are so distant.”
Ian Dalton, who owned The Cooler for eight years before selling it to Dale and Dante, said: “I’ve had an illness for just over a year, and I’m due to have an operation next week.
“The business was not on the market and I just got approached by some very experienced Bristol people. We came to a decision to hand it over to younger people.
“We have had some very, very good nights at The Cooler, and we’ve enjoyed all the nights we’ve had there. Many artists have made their names at The Cooler.”
Mr Dalton, who also owns The Bay Bar and Kitchen in Bedminster, added: “When I took over eight years ago it was a disco-led operation, and seven years ago I decided to do more live music and we developed that.
“I think every business has to evolve from time to time. We are going to miss it but the bottom line is that I think the new owners’ new ideas, new people, new approach may be good for The Cooler in the long-term.
“They’ve started improvements already. I will be interested to see what they do.”
Dale said he and Dante hope Forty Eight will open in the next few weeks. “We’re hoping to promote it by word of mouth, we want people to discover it,” he said.
“We felt there was a danger of cheapening the brand if we did flyering. It’s nice to feel like you’re the first people to find it, and know the people who work there.”
Dale, who has connections with a number of Bristol businesses, said Forty Eight will be offering special rates for certain businesses, and a graffiti artist will be working on the club’s exterior, its DJ booth and the front of the stage.
“There’ll be nothing big for the opening,” he said. “We want to stagger it, maybe opening on a Monday. We want to build it up.
“I would hate to think on the first day it will be rammed with loads of people and we struggle. We don’t want queues or to run out of stock, we want a softer opening.
“We’ll have quite a strong presence at Freshers’ Fairs.”
Reflecting on the news, Debbie Waygood, who works at Superdry in Park Street, said: “It’s the end of an era, it’s been there ages. When I was a student at UWE we used to do all our fundraising there because they had such good deals.”
Ms Waygood and colleague Danny Thorne joked: “We’re a bit old to be going there now but if this had happened 10 years ago it might have ruined our lives.”
Fans have also taken to Twitter to express their disappointment over The Cooler’s closure. User @BecNT said: “No more gigs at The Cooler Bristol??? Sad times - played some great gigs there!”
Meanwhile @lads_house wrote: “The Cooler in Bristol has closed down. No more drunken swaying and group singalongs to Blur. #RIPCooler”.
And @Sadie_Moorcroft tweeted: “the cooler in bristol has been shut down thats another music venue gone #sadtimes”.