Struggling Witney bar's owner issues use it or lose it warning

Witney Gazette: Nortons manager Tilly Wates Nortons manager Tilly Wates

THE landlord of Witney’s Nortons cafe-bar has told his customers to “use it or lose it”.

Mark Wates, who runs the bar in Langdale Gate, said it could close after Easter if trade does not pick up.

His warning follows the closure of Market Square nightclub iZi last September. Mr Wates claimed his bar had lost money almost every week since then.

He believes more young people are leaving the town for nights out.

Mr Wates said: “It’s not looking good. I tell people that if they don’t support us, we will close.

“The first two months of the year were the wettest on record, so it’s hard to tell for definite but if I look on Facebook, I see what people are doing – they’re going to Oxford and spending their money elsewhere.

“I will wake up one morning and say ‘that’s it, I’ve had enough’. It’s the decision the customers are going to make. If they don’t support me, that’s it.”

In January, the Witney Gazette reported that Mr Wates said he would have to decide whether to close the bar after Witney had become a “ghost town” for nightlife.

He has now set a deadline and said: “Easter is always good for us, but last year iZi was open, so that will be the test.

“If it’s not good that weekend, then I can’t afford to pay the rent and VAT and that will be the end of it.”

Restaurant firm Loungers has applied for a premises licence from West Oxfordshire District Council to take over iZi’s premises. The club closed because of increased competition and rising business rates.

Mr Wates added: “This is 100 per cent due to the closure of iZi, which was the final nail in the coffin. The young people want a nightclub. The other pubs aren’t stepping up to the mark and are just plodding along.”

Mr Wates’ daughter Tilly, 23, is bar manager. She said: “We thought when iZi’s closed it would make it busier, but it has been the opposite.

“It’s a small business, so it’s sad, but you can’t carry on if it’s quiet.”

Ye Olde Cross Keys deputy manager Lee Scoles, who worked at iZi for 10 years before it shut, said the town’s nightlife was now “dire”.

He said: “It has just killed the town. Everyone just goes to Oxford.”

Witney resident Kayleigh Vickers, 24, said she and her friends now preferred going to Oxford.

The event manager said: “Since iZi closed, Witney has lost its nightlife. It’s easier to go to Oxford, because there are more options.”

Royal Oak landlady Lesley Semaine, who is the chairman of Witney & District Chamber of Commerce, believes the trade is at its lowest point in her 29 years as a licensee. She said: “We’re slowly losing part of our community.”

Taxi driver Julian Taylor said: “The ranks are very quiet now, because the young people are getting buses to and from Oxford. There’s nothing in Witney for them, because there’s only pubs and no clubs.”

West Oxfordshire District Council’s cabinet member for communities, Richard Langridge, said: “We need a balanced nightlife, with something for youngsters and older people.”

Comments (6)

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12:41pm Wed 26 Mar 14

Cath grey says...

I really hope people from Witney start supporting you more! I've loved many nights out in Nortons! It's always a good night! Your staff are all very welcoming and efficient! I've been there many times for lunch too and was pleasantly surprised!! Very good value for money. I for one will be coming for some drinks next weekend and will do my bit to try support a great local business!!
I really hope people from Witney start supporting you more! I've loved many nights out in Nortons! It's always a good night! Your staff are all very welcoming and efficient! I've been there many times for lunch too and was pleasantly surprised!! Very good value for money. I for one will be coming for some drinks next weekend and will do my bit to try support a great local business!! Cath grey
  • Score: 4

1:57pm Wed 26 Mar 14

RichardBowen says...

Witney used to be vibrant but despite growing in size it is getting quieter and quieter at night. Part of the problem is probably the age of the people on the councils who want a quiet life and not a nightlife economy!
Witney used to be vibrant but despite growing in size it is getting quieter and quieter at night. Part of the problem is probably the age of the people on the councils who want a quiet life and not a nightlife economy! RichardBowen
  • Score: 10

1:18am Thu 27 Mar 14

Milkbutnosugarplease says...

This type of warning makes a place look desperate and puts off more people than it attracts. After all, how bad must it be if you need your arm to be twisted in order to go there? The last time I heard of this tactic it was an Oxford pub, which has now been demolished and replaced by student flats. Time for a more positive message...
This type of warning makes a place look desperate and puts off more people than it attracts. After all, how bad must it be if you need your arm to be twisted in order to go there? The last time I heard of this tactic it was an Oxford pub, which has now been demolished and replaced by student flats. Time for a more positive message... Milkbutnosugarplease
  • Score: 2

12:22pm Thu 27 Mar 14

EMBOX2 says...

Well, when alcohol can be bought in Tesco for cost price, you go home and watch a film via NetFlix etc, get a takeaway pizza too, then where is the incentive to go out? Pubs are expensive, and you need a £10+ taxi home afterwards.

No wonder pubs are closing - and you have Greedy King et al to blame.

Stop supermarkets selling booze and people will go down the pub again.
Well, when alcohol can be bought in Tesco for cost price, you go home and watch a film via NetFlix etc, get a takeaway pizza too, then where is the incentive to go out? Pubs are expensive, and you need a £10+ taxi home afterwards. No wonder pubs are closing - and you have Greedy King et al to blame. Stop supermarkets selling booze and people will go down the pub again. EMBOX2
  • Score: -10

10:43pm Thu 27 Mar 14

rabbitrr says...

Thank god iZi closed. The town is now a much more pleasent place to go out in of an evening without the drunks fighting and using the shop doorways as a toilet!
Thank god iZi closed. The town is now a much more pleasent place to go out in of an evening without the drunks fighting and using the shop doorways as a toilet! rabbitrr
  • Score: 4

10:53am Mon 21 Apr 14

DavidMacLarty says...

@rabbitrr Thank you for your insight, but it really doesn't help when someone makes a completely unfounded statement. The fighting and toilet situation was a problem when you were young too. It's a society behavioral problem and nothing to do with the establishments frequented by those responsible.

Customers will only continue to patronize your establishment if you give them what they want. Having been a successful manager of a large nightclub in Yorkshire my experience was that customers get bored quickly unless you innovate.
iZi didn't, even the sound system (IMHO) was appalling and completely unfit for purpose. In our world of entertainment 'chains' backed by high quality marketing, the survival of the fittest will prevail. It would be a sad day if Witney could only offer an evening on the town for the over 40's.
@rabbitrr Thank you for your insight, but it really doesn't help when someone makes a completely unfounded statement. The fighting and toilet situation was a problem when you were young too. It's a society behavioral problem and nothing to do with the establishments frequented by those responsible. Customers will only continue to patronize your establishment if you give them what they want. Having been a successful manager of a large nightclub in Yorkshire my experience was that customers get bored quickly unless you innovate. iZi didn't, even the sound system (IMHO) was appalling and completely unfit for purpose. In our world of entertainment 'chains' backed by high quality marketing, the survival of the fittest will prevail. It would be a sad day if Witney could only offer an evening on the town for the over 40's. DavidMacLarty
  • Score: 3

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