Luna in Leytonstone is seeking to raise £75,000 in less than a month as it urgently seeks cash for mounting debts and maintenance costs that have put its future at risk, reports Marco Marcelline
A popular live music venue in Leytonstone has launched an “all-or-nothing” crowdfunding campaign to save itself from closure.
Luna’s owner Declan Walsh is looking to raise a total of £75,000 in less than a month as it urgently seeks cash for mounting debts, maintenance costs, and funding for a planned transition to a Community Interest Company (CIC).
The “Save Luna” campaign will reportedly return all donations if the target is not reached.
Declan became the music venue’s owner in 2021, following the unexpected death of founder and business partner Suja Khaled. Under Suja’s ownership, the lounge won TimeOut awards in 2015, 2016, and in 2018.
Luna’s lease is currently still in Suja’s name, and it has accrued a rent arrears over the years. To secure a new lease, Declan says, the arrears needs to be repaid, as well as a year’s rent in advance.
If a new lease is secured, Declan says he will be able to challenge the business rates he pays as the venue is presently still registered as a shoe shop, which is what it was before Suja opened the site in 2004.
In its crowdfunding appeal, the venue’s staff wrote: “The tragic loss of our irreplaceable founder has left a young team physically and financially stretched, we haven’t had days off and now we’re at a critical point. We need a minimum of £75,000 urgently to pay off looming debts threatening closure. This is not mismanagement; it’s the cumulative effect of economic recovery post-COVID, a soaring cost of living crisis, and declining spend per head.”
The venue currently employs four full-time staff, and eight part-time staff including sound engineers, bartenders, a social media specialist, and a bar manager.
Speaking to the Echo, Declan said: “Luna isn’t just a chain pub. We’ve had thousands of musicians come through our doors and for some of them we were the first ever gig they did. On top of that, It’s a place where people can come in and forget their troubles. Our customers are devastated.”
He added: “There is no place like Luna, it’s more than just a music venue. Music is of course at its core but Luna is a community. We, like many venues in our sector, are at a critical point, and to save Luna we need to turn to our Community for help to preserve this amazing space.”
When asked what the donated money would go towards, Declan specified that £50,000 will go towards paying off outstanding rent arrears, while £20,000 will go towards paying the year’s rent in advance with the remaining amount covering legal fees.
The venue’s desired transition to becoming a CIC is a move described by the owner as one that will “reduce overheads, facilitate meaningful fundraising” and make Luna “more eligible for grants” while allowing it to “give back” to Leytonstone.
Luna has said it “desperately needs modernisation” including “new equipment, complete rewiring, soundproofing, two new ceilings and accessibility features”.
It’s not the first trouble that the venue has encountered. In summer 2022, Luna was locked in a dispute with Waltham Forest Council over a noise complaint. The council ordered Luna to keep their sliding terrace doors closed and remove any outdoor seating and furniture, which prevented punters from drinking outside.
Declan told the Echo that the move hurt revenue by “60% overnight” and meant that punters were forced to stay inside the venue amid sweltering summer conditions of “up to 40 degrees” which, he admitted, was “not an enjoyable experience” for them. In January 2023, the council rescinded its restrictions and Luna was allowed to have punters drink outside the venue.
In October 2020, the council’s licensing committee banned the venue from selling alcohol or playing live music after 11pm for three months after police complaints. The move prompted the late Suja to briefly shut the venue down.
The venue remains open as it battles its latest bout of troubles. Tonight, it will host its weekly open mic, while on Friday jazz band Adagio will play tunes.