The campaign to save a popular Norwich pub and music venue threatened with closure after the proposed sale of its premises has emerged victorious after a vigorous public campaign to keep it open.
Just days after closing weekend at the Cattle Market Street venue, it has been revealed The Owl Sanctuary is to relocate to a different venue in the city; a former strip club on Norwich’s Timber Hill. Speaking with Norwich Evening News, owner Dan Hawcroft described the new premises as having a “tucked away, best-kept-secret sort of vibe”. The venue is expected to reopen on the evening of Friday 19 February.
The new building will have the same capacity as the original. Split over two floors, The Owl Sanctuary said all gigs booked in after opening night will be going ahead as previously planned. The new venue’s gig room is set to be named in honour of William Croft, a renowned Norwich musician and friend of Mr Hawcroft’s, who passed away earlier this year.
A statement announcing the news stated that the move to Timber Hill would “not have been possible” without the crowdfunding page set up by local magazine Outline. The appeal has raised just under £7,000 which will be put towards the deposit for the new building and staff’s wages while The Owl Sanctuary is closed, with any extra being donated to Mind, the mental health charity.
Additionally, the former premises of The Owl Sanctuary has been listed as an Asset of Community Value by Norwich City Council, following an “unprecedented” number of applications being made. This means it will be more difficult for the owner to acquire planning permission for the site, surely stalling property developer owner Richard Pratt’s supposed plans to turn the building into luxury homes.
It also means that, if the owner decides to sell the building as anything other than a pub, the community will first be given the opportunity to purchase it as one.
While it’s too late for The Owl Sanctuary, the ACV listing could potentially be a triumph for independence and community spirit in the face of mass commercialisation. Mr Hawcroft wrote: “At the end of the day, 25 Cattle Market Street was our home and will always mean a lot to us, but it's only bricks and mortar.
“The Owl Sanctuary is - and always will be - the people inside those bricks, the bands playing shows, the people at the gigs, at the bar, playing pool, donating soup, and the ethos and ethics they carry with them - and that cannot be destroyed”.
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