THE Sub Club is a Scottish institution. For those unfamiliar with electronic dance music, it has a global reputation and is frequently listed as one of the most influential clubs in the world.

For a basement venue below Glasgow’s Jamaica Street, which even when ram-jammed can only hold about 400 people, the Sub Club’s cache vastly outstrips its turnover.

DJs from around the world have flown into Glasgow to play at “The Subbie” – Derrick May, the effervescent originator of Detroit techno, is a regular. Dimitri from Paris, a magician of ’70s funk and disco, has graced the decks there. And the late Andrew Weatherall, the DJ/producer behind Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, was among its many creative patrons.

Unfortunately, the club which put Scotland on the world map of urban dance music is under perilous threat. Forced to close its doors due the coronavirus pandemic, it is now at risk of permanent closure and 31 people are at risk of losing their jobs, having been locked out of access to the UK Government’s furlough scheme.

Lockdown measures have created a shortfall of more than £250,000 in the company’s income for 2020. The Sub Club has lost more than £30,000 in furlough payments and it has been forced to place all its 31 full and part-time staff on unpaid leave. A host of freelance DJs, music promoters and technical workers also rely on the club for their regular income.

Comparisons are an invidious business but if the Sub Club were a theatre it would have the cherished international reputation of the Traverse Theatre and the local creative renown of the Citizens Theatre. But for reasons that are tangled up in the tired old binary of highbrow and lowbrow culture, electronic dance music clubs do not attract the cultural respect or the public grant-aided support they deserve.

Facing a bleak future, the club recently launched a crowdfunder which has been hugely successful, breaking through its stretch target of £150,000 and now nearing a total of £250,000, including a sizable donation of £25,000 from the Dumfries producer and singer Calvin Harris, another of the Sub Club’s graduates.

The fund is still open, and the money raised will be spent on a hardship fund for staff and suppliers impacted by the Sub Club’s long-term closure.

It is becoming increasingly clear that crowdfunding divides opinion. An article in The Sun, mainly scraped from tweets on social media, criticised a Sub Club director Usman Khushi for appearing next to a private jet on an Instagram post. You had to dig deep to get to the part where it explained that he is an unpaid non-executive director and that the jet is not his and was actually hired by a friend from Manchester to take DJs to a party in Berlin. Khushi’s “look-at-me” post on social media should not impair a very worthy funding campaign.

Stripping away the glamour, either real or imagined, what is massively frustrating for the staff and the management is that the club supposedly qualified for the Government’s Job Retention support but was sent on a Kafkaesque journey around the various entry points for schemes only to have the door slammed shut at the 24th hour.

Mike Grieve, managing director of the Sub Club, said last week: “Months of mistakes on HMRC’s part caused us to miss out on eligibility for the furlough scheme by a single day.

“The reality for us is that we’ll be lucky if we open this year – the very nature of the business means that opening with social distancing requirements in place seems impossible.”

Alison Thewliss MP, the Shadow SNP Treasury Spokesperson, is backing the Sub Club’s plea, but she believes they are just one of thousands of victims of a scheme that wants to seem open but is also seeking to minimise spend and so is “pushing businesses to the brink”.

Last week Thewliss said: “I have been appalled by HMRC’s handling of complaints about the Job Retention Scheme. What’s more, it’s now becoming clear that their lack of flexibility and inability to exercise discretion is entirely deliberate, and as a result of instructions passed from HM Treasury.’’

Thewliss, one Scotland’s most pragmatic and hard-working MPs, is enraged by the way a constituent’s business has been treated.

“The Sub Club’s case is a particularly egregious one,” she said. “The business contacted me around two months ago, and my office escalated the matter to HMRC on May 11. Since then, there have been interminable delays getting replies. We have had responses that contradict one another, there have been call-backs promised that have not materialised, and a failure from HM Treasury and HMRC to recognise that their own mistakes have led to the situation that the business now finds itself in.”

“Perhaps most alarming of all is the fact that I raised this case personally with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury,

Jesse Norman MP, on June 22 and haven’t had as much as an acknowledgement. So much for this Government’s promise to do ‘whatever it takes’ to support business and the economy.”

A leaked Government report has not given any comfort either. Reports published in the fashion and style magazine i-D say that “in comparison to other

areas of the hospitality industry, like hotels, gyms, and pubs, nightclub dancefloors present a ‘challenging area’ when it comes to social distancing. Nightclubs will probably not be able to reopen any time soon,” the report concludes.

Even when they do reopen, clubs may be unrecognisable. Entrance checks will be stricter and, according to the leaked report, “this could mean that clubbers wash their hands with sanitiser before coming in and have their temperatures taken at the door. Queues outside nightclubs will be spaced out with markings”.

NONE of this is good news to the Sub Club’s core clientele. As lockdown is gradually lifted and some elements of social life re-emerge, what is now abundantly clear is the fact that underground basement clubs will be amongst the very last things to re-emerge from the pandemic.

Another potentially damaging scenario for the Sub Club is the current fear that overseas students will no longer come to Glasgow in the volume of past years.

This situation is currently threatening to bankrupt some colleges and universities and will have a knock-on effect across Scotland. Like the now dearly departed Hacienda club in Manchester, the Sub Club often featured on reasons why

students chose to study in Glasgow. A long-standing issue for urban dance music in general and the Sub Club in particular is that it does not fit comfortably into the funding streams that come as grants or loans from Creative Scotland, an agency currently stretched to near breaking point by the new demands that have fallen upon it.

Electronic dance music is a highly creative culture, but unlike theatre, the visual arts and literature it struggles to assert its importance when grants are allocated. The Sub Club has also had to cancel an already popular summer school called the Sub-Hub, which offered free lessons and seminars in DJ mixing, visual arts and the history of African American music to young people in Glasgow.

Admittedly, it is a far cry from conventional higher education, but in these days where innovation is king, the club’s outreach work might be a way for the Sub Club to re-establish its presence while the booming basement remains shut.

For all its global reputation the Sub Club has been dealt a cruel blow – it was one of the first businesses to close and will be among the last to reopen, if it ever does. If the Sub was to sink it would be a huge loss to Scotland’s popular cultural landscape.

The Save Our Sub Crowdfunder is at: