Premier League football club saves top jazz club

A popular jazz club that was at risk of closure can stay open after a Premier League football club stepped in.

Luton Town’s property division, 2020 Developments, has acquired the Mill Yard historic building which is home to The Bear Club.

The venue was voted one of the top 25 jazz clubs in the world in 2018 by AllAboutJazz.

Luton Town FC and 2020 Developments CEO Gary Sweet said they "simply could not stand by” and watch the jazz club lose its home.

His company decided to act when they learned the building was about to be sold, meaning The Bear Club would be left homeless.

“It means too much to the town, its endangered nightlife and its independent cultural spirit," said Mr Sweet.

The industrial building, originally part of The Great North Steam Company and opposite Luton railway station, was converted into the jazz venue in 2014.

The club has hosted world-renowned musicians as well as local acts and also puts on comedy nights and community events.

Regular Anthea Cowen said she was “genuinely overjoyed” at the news The Bear Club will remain open.

“We were some of the founding members and have been heartbroken at the thought it was due to close. It’s the best place for jazz and blues for miles around, and is definitely one of Luton’s greatest assets,” she said.

Teela Hughes, who runs charity Music 24, said: "We're so pleased that The Bear Club can continue as it is home to our mental health project that supports people from Luton and the surrounding areas to engage in live music workshops - like a band rehearsal vibe.

"Participants get a real buzz knowing they’re making great music in this prestigious venue and receiving mental health support in a protective and welcoming setting."

2020 Developments said its acquisition would secure the club “in its current location, and in its current format”.

Chief Operating Officer Michael Moran said it was part of their “commitment to the regeneration of Luton’s town centre” which includes the new stadium at Power Court.

“This is the start of a new era for a long-neglected area of the town that’s being brought back to brilliant new life," he said.

“This location is a good investment for the club too, as we aim to fulfil the great potential of the whole area for our local and football communities."

The Bear Club owners Giles Willits and Neil Simmonds said they were “utterly delighted” that the building's new owner had safeguarded the future of the club.

“We very much look forward to working with them,” they said.

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