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Norwich music venue The Owl Sanctuary set to close

12:11 07 January 2016

The Owl Sanctuary. 
Photo by Simon Finlay.

The Owl Sanctuary. Photo by Simon Finlay.

A popular Norwich pub and music venue is set to close by the end of the month, after the building was sold.

The Owl Sanctuary will shut its doors on January 31 - to the disappointment of legions of music fans and its manager, who said the sale was done without his knowledge.

The venue, in Cattle Market Street, has been bought by Richard Pratt, who also owns the building occupied by Warings, the furniture shop and cafe next door.

And Dan Hawcroft, who used part of his student loan to set up The Owl Sanctuary in 2014, said that meant the venue would now be closing.

He said: “It’s been a nightmare. We only found out just before Christmas that it had been sold. The first thing I knew was when I got a call from Mr Pratt saying I would be paying him rent and it turned out that a deal had been done in August.”

Mr Hawcroft said he had had a verbal agreement with the previous landlord to extend the lease beyond March, when it is due to expire.

He said: “We are having to cancel lots of bands. Since I found this out I’ve been trying to get in touch with the owners of The Cricketers and King’s, as they are both pubs which are boarded up, but I’ve heard nothing back.
“I really don’t know what we’re going to do. When we took it on, it was pretty much derelict and we got it all painted and refurbished by ourselves and we’re still the people who work behind the bar now.

“We created one of the most respected DIY venues in the country. We did the first ever sold out gig by Slaves, who have gone onto great things and we’ve had bands from all over the world, such as Japan and Brazil.

“They have come because they loved our ethos and what we are trying to do here. There’s some great bands coming up in Norwich and if they’re not nurtured at grass roots level, how are they ever going to break out?”

Mr Hawcroft added that the Norwich Soup Movement, which provides support for the homeless, also use a room at the venue, so they will need to find a new base.

Mr Pratt said he had been trying to buy the property from its previous owner - Roger Watkins - for three or fours years, as an “investment”.

He said: “I have no plans for the property at the moment, but it is common knowledge that I have planning permission for the building next door (Warings).
“As far as I am concerned, the building is structurally unsafe at the back and, whatever happens to that building, it needs money invested in it.”

He said Mr Hawcroft’s lease had always been due to expire in March. He said: “He has not been told to leave, it’s his decision to leave. His lease is until the end of March and there is no option in the contract to extend that. He knew that when he agreed the lease with Mr Watkins.

“At the end of the day, I don’t wish anybody any ill. We have all started in business somewhere and they could have had a little longer to stay there.”

Mr Hawcroft said if Mr Pratt could give a genuine promise that it would remain as a pub then he would be prepared to have a conversation with him.

The Owl Sanctuary is set to shut on January 31 and Mr Hawcroft urged people to support the venue as much as possible until that date.

There was much anger on Twitter on Wednesday night directed against Warings, who people thought were behind The Owl Sanctuary closure.

The furniture store stressed on Facebook they were not responsible for the closure. They share the same landlord - Mr Pratt - as the Owl Sanctuary.

Warings wrote on Facebook today: “To all customers and followers, Please disregard various posts purporting that WARINGS have bought The Owl Sanctuary next door to our store - we are totally unrelated to this.

“We are desperately trying to balance all the misguided negativity left last night on our reviews.

“Unfortunately The Owl Sanctuary our neighbours are closing down. Some misunderstood their post to read that we had bought the building and forced the closure. Which we have not. We just share the same commercial landlord. We have deleted all the negative and nasty posts but are appealing for help to restore our online review status by getting as many positive reviews as possible.”

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19 comments

  • The fact that you believe any of that Jamie (and the fact you are talking about yourself in the third person) makes me need to suggest you seek medical advice - don't rewrite history.

    Report this comment

    Larry

    Tuesday, January 12, 2016

  • From what I remember, Larry, You and Jamie were equal partners, he was the brains, the landlord, with his name above the door, the one who made it all happen, negotiating everything, from getting the pub in the first place and then getting Roger a 50k loan from one of his pals (I know the guys who loaned the money, his Son was at Uni here). He showed us the paperwork for that loan and for the the incentives (5K) he negotiated from the brewery and the subsequent payments of 10K from roger, which, he says paid for some of the sound system and all the work done getting the place sorted.. You sound very bitter !! No one was saying you didn't contribute, but get a grip, you didn't help him one bit with the day to day running of the pub, his brother did more than you, Vitali did more than you and you still owe him & Paul money (several grand), yea i saw you paint a bit and sand a bit of floor & serve a few shifts, but truth be known, he kicked you out, or you walked out on him before being pushed, as you were of no use to the venue, cause you didn't keep your agreement with him, to help the pub with cash flow as you promised him. This wasn't a post to say anything about Jamie or You, this was to set the record straight, as Dan seemed to want to run down all the good work - both you and Jamie did to get the pub open. You and Jamie will go down in history as the people who saved The Marquee, not Dan, who just capitalized on your good start. So for what its worth, well done to you for being with Jamie and doing whatever you two did to get the place open and make it so nice. But look at your own feet for your loss, he told us you insisted on spending your money on the bar, toilets etc and would not listen to his reason for not doing so, which was that you only had a year or two max to be in the place as Roger was developing the place. You tried to team up with Dan to unsettle Jamie, which is why the pub was not adopted, Jamie was the life and soul of the place, living in the place for months with nothing, just to get it alive once more. It was his word that counted, it was his passion that drew me to help as it was with all of us who came through the door and listened to him, his dynamic nature, living on the edge, taking risks to make this happen. Yes he did smoke a bit of puff and enjoyed the finer things in life, well I saw you doing your fair share, buying everyone in the Steam Packet drinks with the money Jamie got you for the pub, doing illegal substances as well.

    Report this comment

    Black Anna

    Tuesday, January 12, 2016

  • Sorry misread your comment. I can assure you Jamie did not loan 50,000 to Roger - that's laughable.. He came here with no money - I put a roof over his head, paid for his food, beer, tobacco and even for him to have a tooth removed.. Nice way to repay me doing a runner with my stuff - he'll be richer than he ever was now because everything he took will be worth money than he's ever seenhad. The only loans given were from me to Jamie (never paid a penny back) and from me to Roger (which was paid back in full)

    Report this comment

    Larry

    Friday, January 8, 2016

  • 'Black Anna' I'm not entirely sure who you are but you are very wrong with some of your comments, which I would like to address. 1. Jamie invested absolutely nothing into the pub (both in effort and financially - in fact it would have been easier not to have him around) with the equipment and my personal items he stole when he ran off I estimate I lost around £100,000 on the venture - which I hold him personally responsible for. 2. I'm unaware of any loan from Roger to Jamie, that certainly did not happen when I was there, perhaps it did after I left and he ran off owing yet another person money. 3. The noise abaitment order was removed because a previous tenant of the building was no longer involved and it certainly did not cost anything. 4. Dan did not destroy anything, Jamie emptying the till to fund his habits, nights out and whatever else, sleeping all the time, not opening the place, not paying bills (which eventually led to the electric being cut) breweries refusing to give him beer on credit because they know what he's like (therefore having no beer) being obnoxious and creepy (making people not want to go in there when he was around) destroyed it. 5. The community idea was messed up by Jamie coming out with absolutely ludicrous ideas, he is not community minded he's just interested in obtaining other people's hard earned money with as little effort as possible. 6. I doubt the brewery would have taken us all on a tour and ploughed us with as much beer as we could drink, for free if they were refusing to deliver beer, and if that was the case why does he never run out? 7. Dan hasn't asked for donations, a third party set that up and Dan has stated its all going to charity 8. Dan was by far the best thing to happen to the pub and has turned it into a well run and respected venue, something Jamie couldn't do if you gave him step by step instructions! Larry.

    Report this comment

    Larry

    Friday, January 8, 2016

  • Signed friend of Mr Pratt

    Report this comment

    Ed Boning

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • Interesting to hear that Mr Pratt would pay almost twice what the building was valued at last year (according to Land Registry documents) as an 'investment' which he has no plans for.....it clearly has nothing to do with the pub standing in the way of his gentrification plans of ripping down the last remaining buildings from the old cattle market behind Warings to build flats. He must be either a liar or a fool to pay over the odds for a building he claims is structurally unsafe and would need vast investment to make safe. Of course if the pub were to vanish, it would be a prime spot for more flats or car parking for his proposed flats.....

    Report this comment

    Kill Joy

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • What a joke !! The people who brought the pub back to life and spent all the money was Larry & Jamie, spending nearly £80,000 on a complete refurbishment. Which was well documented in the EDP, spending several thousand getting a noise abatement notice lifted with £8,000 of sound proofing. The building was falling down, and without the £50,000.00 Jamie loaned to Roger, to sure it up, it would have fallen down in November 2012 (remember the scaffolding). Read the full article in the EDP :- http:www.eveningnews24.co.uknewsnew_publicans_at_the_marquee_in_cattle_market_street_norwich_promise_to_respect_neighbours_and_become_part_of_community_1_1707306 Dan Hawcroft, did nothing apart from slap a bit of red paint and a name change. "The Marquee" was far from derelict when Hawcroft took the place over. In fact, most of the work was completed by a hard core of the old customers, including myself and several other local artists, carpenters, plasterers and many other trades. It is a real shame that the venue is closing, but what do you expect, there was only a very short lease and no provision for renewal as the building was always expected to be sold for development. Having been involved when the pub was first reopened, it was always known that the lease was short as the pub was for sale and that flats were to be built on the back and the pub converted to flats. Asking for people to pledge money is just another way of grabbing money as far as I see it. The fact that the business that Hawcroft runs is in serious financial difficulties, with debts of over £50k and his suppliers refusing to supply any beer is probably more the case for shutting the doors prematurely. See the facts here :- https:www.duedil.comcompany08903041the-owl-sanctuary-music-ltd The gigs that Hawcroft put on were just clones of the community plan which the marquee had in place, until Dan systematically set about ruining the good work which Larry & Jamie had done. It's all about the money... give your support to the soup movement, they are the only true loser's here, along with the Norwich music scene.

    Larry & Jamie in 2012 after they fully refurbished The Marquee (aka The Owl Sanctuary)

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    Black Anna

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • If the venue is to close at the end of January, isn't the most important thing that The Owl Sanctuary continues and The Norwich Soup Movement has an alternative venue to continue it's good work. Is there anyone out there who can offer a suitable venuevenues for both to continue?

    Report this comment

    Chewwy

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • Typical greedy Incomer only interested in cash. No soul no love of our city and culture. Council should hang their heads in shame if any development is allowed to this awful man.

    Report this comment

    norfolk bird

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • I agree, if anything this unfortunate situation is probably for the best of everyone in the long run.

    Report this comment

    christoph

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • Hardly an acceptable use of a student loan!

    Report this comment

    Voice of Reason

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • It's a great shame the Owl Sanctuary is closing. Dan Hawcroft and his team did a great job re-opening the pub and turning it into a great live music venue that Norwich could be proud of. If Mr Pratt has no plans for the building, then why not let Dan continue as tenant? It would be a shame for another pub, in this case viable, to close its doors. It is an Asset of Community Value and I expect Norwich's CAMRA branch to apply to give it a measure of protection.

    Report this comment

    Rich Hartt

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • I am running a crowdfunding page here for Dan and The Owl. Please donate to help them. https:crowdfunding.justgiving.comowlsanctuary

    Report this comment

    Lizz Page

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • To be honest though that pubbuilding is one of what I call the 'Cursed Gang'. A group of pubsbars that only ever seem to last 6-18 months before they close down stay empty for a while then open up again only for the cycle to repeat again. They seem to enjoy eating people and money up. Probably the best thing for it if it is turned into flats. Break the cycle. Very sad for those affected.

    Report this comment

    Resident Smith

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • He's buying it with the aim to convert the whole site into flats - the Owl Sanctuary building being where it is provides access issues to the Warings building. He'll now be able to knock it down and build flats on the whole site without these issues. As sad as it is to the community, he seems to be honouring the terms of the lease so I'm not sure what a councillor or MP is going to do. Not that I think his motives are altruistic but it will provide homes for people which is something I hear a lot of people complain that there just aren't enough of.

    Report this comment

    martin

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • Cue more unaffordable housing and thus aimed at the 'buy to let' market which in turn leads to rip off rental prices. Tory Britain strikes again.

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    Andy Rymarz

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • So Mr Pratt has been trying to purchase the building for 3 or 4 years, but yet has no plans for it?? He's bought it as an investment, under the impression that it is structurally unsafe. Mmmmmm.......perhaps he does indeed have plans for it........the same plans as for next door maybe.... He obviously think the readers of the NEN are stupid in order to believe "the no plans for the property" fairytale.....

    Report this comment

    Chipin

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • So an enthusiastic young entrepreneur who has given much to the music community with a popular venue is forced to have his business shut down because Mr Pratt wants an "investment"? An investment in what exactly? What were the terms of Mr Hawcrofts lease that he can apparently be turfed out without so much as a by-your-leave? I hope he will be taking this up with his local councillor and MP.

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    Stephen Strange

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • Actually Warings are adamant on their Facebook page that Richard Partt is NOT their owner and they rent the property from the same people as the Owl Sanctuary. Companys House also has no mention of Richard Partt owning Warings. The reporter might want to do some more research as Warings business is already affected with people targeting their Facebook page with negative reviews.

    Report this comment

    Piranha24

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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