THE operator behind a legendary Southampton music venue has spoked of his relief ahead of their first standing gig on Monday.

The Joiners on St Marys Street have been closed for standing gigs for almost 500 days, since the COVID-19 pandemic drew the live music industry to a halt.

Operator and promoter Ricky Bates described the pandemic as "the darkest period in this music venues 53 year history.

He said he felt "relieved" after the government confirmed that all venues can open from Mon 19 July, but he remained cautious about whether this could change.

He said: "We've been reading through about 30 pages of guidance about re-opening, and last night (Wed 14) the government has released more guidance.

"We just want to make sure everyone feels safe [at the venue}.

"I really hope the government don't do what they did last time venues had to close, where we were left pretty much on out own.

"They sent out a lot of mixed messages to the public [about whether they should o to hospitality venues[ and that was really bad for business.]"

He said many of the COVID prevention methods will be carried over from seated gigs.

This includes staff wearing PPE, the opening of fire doors during intervals to improve air circulation, the use of the NHS Track and Trace app and improved air conditioning.

Ricky described the extended closure as a "nightmare" for the industry, claiming to have cancelled and moved the dates of over 100 gigs since the start of the pandemic as guidance changed.

Tickets can be bought here.