The Jazz Bar to reopen as a C.I.C. from 1 July

Following its shock closure in April, The Jazz Bar in Edinburgh will reopen on 1 July – to celebrate, we catch up with the venue's new co-owners, Nick and Justyna Mushlin

Feature by Tallah Brash | 28 Jun 2024
  • The Jazz Bar

While profits from Taylor Swift’s record breaking Era’s Tour are quite literally in the billions, the grassroots end of the industry is not in good health. In the last 12 months, 125 grassroots music venues (GMVs) in the UK have closed their doors, with 38% of all UK GMVs reporting a financial loss. But these smaller venues are a necessary part of the live music ecosystem – they help harness and foster entire communities, and give early-career artists the chance to cut their teeth; without them most of your favourite artists wouldn't exist.

Of course, the closure of music venues is not new. Over the years in Edinburgh we’ve lost a number of beloved spots including The Venue, Studio 24, Electric Circus, Henry’s Cellar Bar, and, well, depressingly, the list goes on. While it's always deeply upsetting, rarely does it come as a surprise, and so amid the current cost of living crisis, it was truly unsurprising when The Jazz Bar announced its immediate closure on 10 April. But, a lot has happened since then, and in a shock twist, The Jazz Bar is set to reopen its doors on 1 July! 

Opened in 2005 by legendary jazz drummer Bill Kyle, the venue’s new co-owners Nick and Justyna Mushlin have a long history with the venue. Nick joined as Assistant Manager in 2007, while Justyna got her first ever bar job there in 2010. While she did go on to work in other bars, she found herself constantly returning. “The Jazz Bar is such a fun place to work,” she enthuses. “Most [of the staff] have been messaging, asking if they could come back when we reopen!”

So why did the venue close in the first place? "It wasn't that business was really down, because that's just not true,” Nick admits, barely visible over Zoom as he dials in from the dimly-lit venue in question. “It's that everything costs so much more. I think the biggest problem is the viability of doing what we do. We don't just put a few bands on as entertainment."

He continues: "We're a destination, people come for the music – everything is about the music. And when you run a venue where the music comes first and you're not there to exploit the musicians and you're there to provide a platform, it's just not viable as a business.”

The Jazz Bar has been fostering its tight-knit community of like-minded musicians and aficionados in its late-night basement spot on Chambers Street for almost two decades, so its sudden closure in April sent a shockwave across the country. Following incredible unwavering support from their community, on 30 May there was a surprise announcement that they had set up a new company – The Jazz Bar Edinburgh C.I.C. (Community Interest Company). And with The Jazz Bar’s assets, name, social media and licence all secured, hope that the venue would soon reopen sparked a flurry of excitement; a Crowdfunder launched on the same day raised 50% of its initial target in less than 12 hours – "That's when we realised we can actually do this," says Justyna.

"It's been such a hard few months, going through the liquidation, and closing up The Jazz Bar Ltd, because I've been trying to help the old Directors out... I mean, it's a minefield,” Nick says. “At so many points we were just like, ‘It's just not worth it, let's give up’, but there's been so much support from the community. We just couldn't let all the musicians down.”

While it's not been without its challenges, changing from a Limited company to a C.I.C. means lots of added benefits for the venue, with a reduction in business rates, VAT exemption on ticket sales, and the ability to apply for funding, loans and grants. "The Music Venue Trust is who helped us… We needed someone to cheer us on, to say, ‘You know what, you can do it!’” Justyna tells us. “They helped us with the crowdfunder. They were just a huge help and the support that we needed at the time when we were in a really dark place."

The first few months of the venue relaunch will be business as usual, with the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival hosting a number of events there from 12-21 July, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe quickly following in August. But from September onwards, the new business model comes with new business opportunities, and Nick and Justyna are excited to make some changes. They have grand plans to extend the opening hours, with youth development projects, music workshops and afternoon shows for kids, with the hopes of giving “a proper introduction to music for children,” says Nick, as Justyna interjects, “to introduce our future customers, but also future musicians, to give them the hunger they might not even know that they have."

Justyna concludes: "I'm genuinely very, very excited and I am just so grateful – I'm still speechless with everything that has happened and is going to happen. We cannot wait for how we can change it and just bringing it back."

The Jazz Bar reopens on 1 Jul; follow them on Instagram, Facebook and X @thejazzbar
If you run a music venue and are struggling to make ends meet, find out more about how the Music Venue Trust can help at