THE owner of an Oxford venue threatened with closure says the move would help destroy the city’s reputation as a centre of live music.

The Cellar, in Frewin Court, off Cornmarket, is an iconic nightclub and one of the oldest gig venues in Europe – with live bands performing in the basement club, and its predecessor, for more than 45 years.

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But owner Tim Hopkins has now been served notice to leave.

An online petition gathered nearly 7,000  signatures since the Oxford Mail broke the story about the club’s possible closure – and Mr Hopkins has vowed to fight on.

He said: “It would be a crime to kill it off.

“This place has been a home of live music for at least 45 years, making it one of the oldest gig venues in Europe.

“There’s a lot of history and it’s been a stepping stone for a lot of bands.

“There is already a shortage of venues, and to close a place of this size would leave a massive gap.

“It’s used by breakthrough bands, students, different sections of the community and for fundraisers.

“We have everything from rock to dance and Latin music and one of the oldest goth nights in the country.

“It stands for freedom of speech and independence. To lose it would be to the massive detriment to Oxford. You can’t recreate it somewhere else.

“They would be robbing the next generation and depriving musicians of the future a place to hone their craft.”

“This has come as a massive shock but we are fighting our corner and are going to try our best to keep it open.”

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Foals at the Cellar - picture Paul Tipping

The subterranean club, the last real independent venue in the city centre, has played host to breakthrough local bands like Foals, Stornoway and The Young Knives and international acts such as Mumford & Sons, Crystal Fighters and The National, but it could close in early 2018 when the retailer Lush, due to move into the new Westgate centre, vacates its shop above the club.

Owners St Michael’s and All Saints’ Charities want to convert the basement to give potential tenants a larger shop or storage space.

But Mr Hopkins, from Wolvercote, said the charity appeared to be acting out of ignorance and had no idea how important the venue was, nor the amount of support for it.

The Cellar, previously known as The Dolly – opened by Tim’s father Adrian Hopkins – is on the site of former pub The Corn Dolly, and has been hosting live music for five decades.

Mr Hopkins said he was taken aback by the solidarity from music-lovers since the petition went live, saying: “We have had an amazing reaction. People are really supportive, which is great and gives me a lot of encouragement to keep the momentum going.”

He said the club had been about to embark on its own improvements with plans for a new floor now postponed.

“We have always updated and decorated the venue and have done a lot of work on it,” he said

Legendary rock promoter Alan Day, originally from Abingdon, has staged scores of shows at The Cellar. He urged people to sign the petition, saying: “I’ve promoted shows there, danced on the ceiling and got very merry there over the years. Oxford can’t lose it.”

St Michael’s and All Saints’ Charities were approached for a comment but did not respond before our deadline.

Sign the petition here...