THE man who rescued one of Hampshire’s best loved live music venues has moved to allay concerns over its future.
Leaseholder Guy Benfield said the Talking Heads in Portswood Road, Southampton, had a fighting future – despite a planning application by its owners to convert it into student digs.
This comes one year after he stepped in to save the pub from the brink after the previous tenant abandoned his post.
Mr Benfield said his landlords, with whom he has signed a ten-year lease, had always intended to lodge a planning application just in case his venture to save the venue failed.
He said: “When I signed the lease it was something I agreed to with the understanding from the beginning that I would be the best person running this as Talking Heads – and if I couldn’t make it work it would be turned into flats.
“But anyone who knows me knows I will not be giving this place up. There are absolutely no worries.”
The pub is owned by Southampton-based property firm Bajar Estates Ltd, which paid £351,000 for the freehold nearly nine years ago.
The company has lodged designs with city council planners for alterations and conversion to provide 18 student flats plus a part two-storey and part single-storey rear extension and parking at the back.
But Mr Benfield said: “I have good relations with the landlords who are more than happy that I stay.
“As long as I am here Talking Heads is here.
“I love music and I have always liked this place – I want to take it on to its true potential.”
The 52-year-old from Bassett insisted the venue was increasing its turnover and was booked up with acts until New Year’s Eve.
He added: “I would not be booking that far ahead if I was going to leave.”
The 260-capacity club is renowned for staging an eclectic mix of musical genres from folk, reggae and jazz to indie and punk as well as welcoming comedy, drama and poetry.
It has helped to launch the careers of many up and coming acts.
Over the years Talking Heads has hosted gigs by acts such as The Script, The Damned, Juliette Lewis, The New York Dolls and Southampton-based trio Band Of Skulls.