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Mercury Live: meet the new faces behind the much-needed interior changes of the iconic venue

Let’s be honest – Mercury Live is the last bastion of live music in Cape Town’s CBD.

The Mother City has seen venues come and go at an alarming rate over the last 5 years, but when The Assembly closed its doors, Mercury Live was left standing as the only place in town properly equipped to put on a club show of an international standard.

There are other places, of course, I’m not completely devoid of my observation skills, but you tell me what independent band has the capital in excess of R10 000 to cover venue costs before they’ve even stepped onstage? Precisely. Mercury Live offers an affordable home for those looking to put on quality gigs, which is exactly the reason I will always be a staunch supporter.

Mercury Live has also undergone a few much-needed changes over the years. When Retro Dizzy’s Richard Liefeldt last interviewed current owner Tim Moolman, he’d taken over the venue alongside his partner who is no longer a part of the business today.

Enter Stephann Lubbe (who has 13 years experience in the service industry) and Marcus & Rudi Oosthuizen (owners of Aandklas Hatfield, Stellenbosch and most recently Platteland in Centurion).

This quadruple threat have come in guns blazin’ and haven’t looked back since the club’s renovation in late 2018 and industry veteran Marcus Oosthuzien was keen to chat about the whirlwind few months.

Tecla Ciolfi: First off, the venue looks incredible. In its history I don’t think Mercury has ever looked this good. Whose idea was it to renovate so drastically?

Marcus Oosthuzien: Mercury is a legendary venue in Cape Town and it has hosted amazing shows, but the sands of time has been cruel. To ensure Mercury sees the next 20 years we had to start from scratch. We realised that a clean look on stage, bigger bars for better service and seating was a must, hence the massive changes made to the interior of Mercury. Our aim was to keep the old soul but do a facelift. Most of the design work was done in-house and we did all the renovations ourselves.

TC: I know that you have some huge plans for the club, as a venue but also as a brand. What are some of the plans that you can share with me now?

MO: Our aim is to give the bands the best possible platform to perform to their fans in Cape Town. We would like to bring more international shows, but our focus will be on the local scene.

Without giving away too much, but we are winking at one of Gauteng’s cities…

TC: Hmmm interesting. So, obviously, a rebrand and renovation like this cost a lot of money and the economic climate in our country isn’t the greatest right now, especially when it comes to investment. Who have been some of Mercury’s biggest supporters over the last year?

MO: There have been quite a few people and organisers that have come and gone and played a huge role in keeping things moving. Psych Night, That Other Booking Company, The Metalist ZA, Cape Audio College have been a solid support for us over the years. Paul Bothners have sponsored our backline for many years and most importantly; the regular faces we see at shows. Without the support of the people coming out to support the local acts venues can’t survive.

TC: On the outside, Mercury looks like a well-oiled ship but that’s because you’ve had your positive and negative experiences over the years. What are some of the most important lessons that you’ve learned?

MO: Sjoe, a lot of lessons have been learnt over the years. You will be okay if you like the place you own, that is the secret. If something pisses you off, change it. If it bothers you, fix it. If you are not happy, others will not be either. As simple as that. Be proud of everything you do. Be honest with yourself. Never be content and always try to improve and give the consumer the experience you want.

TC: Who do you think has it down-pat when it comes to running a venue. Who do you look at and you’re like – damn that’s a good business model? It could be local or international.

MO: Local is lekker but I will use a group of venues in the UK as an example.  They have venues across the UK, catering for between 1000 and 2500 people. The recipe is simple. If you want to tour in the UK, they can help you. They are not loyal to a genre of music either. They host events across the board. By doing this, they spread the risk of a live venue and they increase the lifespan of the business, hence them being around for more than 40 years.

We would like Mercury to be the preferred venue for bands to play in Cape Town.

We want to offer the best sound and production with a professional experience and great offers to our customers to support the music scene, local and international.

We also want to be a platform to help build the scene and help play a role in the growth of the industry in South Africa.

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