He's in the money

23 September 2005
He's in the money

A recent trip to Dubai, where he owns another Cuban-style bar and restaurant business, Malecon, resulted in Turner securing the finance needed to turn the basement of the London building into the club he has been dreaming of. "I know the feel I'm going for," he says. "Something reflective of a 1950s supper club or drinking den but a bit more contemporary and kitsch."

His backer is a Dubai-based company, which will act as a silent partner - providing the funds and taking a share of the profits but leaving him in control of the operation. It's all signed and sealed and once the funds come through the project will begin in earnest with the aim of opening for business at the end of October, in time for the Christmas season. "We've already had enquiries about when it's opening and availability for Christmas parties," he says. "We'll be able to cater for up to 400 people at a time - 200 on the ground floor for buffets and another 200 downstairs for a DJ-led evening.

It's crucial to get the club up and running. The £95,000 annual rent is valued on the usability of the space, so he's paying for two floors but only using - and generating income from - one floor at present, that being the 32-seat restaurant. That's in addition to paying for a Public Entertainment Licence and a late-night licence, neither of which he's using at the moment.

The club project, which also includes a cigar room on the ground floor, is budgeted at £180,000 and is expected to account for 60% of the annual turnover. So, in effect, the biggest revenue centre in the building isn't open yet. Renovations are expected to take three weeks: structurally there's not a great deal to do since the basement area, previously a nightclub, will keep its existing layout.

There's already a bar area, though this will be transformed by building a new wooden bar. On the opposite side of the room, Turner has plans for a wooden stage with a private VIP booth to one side and a raised DJ booth to the other. There will be two huge comfy sofas against one wall with tub chairs scattered about and in the centre, several tables and chairs where guests can sit and enjoy a drink and the entertainment. The wooden bar and stage will be complemented by soft furnishings in rich fabrics such as velvet to create a relaxed, cosy atmosphere. It will be somewhere to go after dinner with friends where you can relax, enjoy a drink and be entertained - and where the music isn't intrusive and you can still have a conversation.

Turner has begun his search for entertainers. "I want something going on for about five nights of the week," he says. There will be a resident DJ most nights playing an mix of music from old R&B to funk and dirty disco (for the uninitiated that's revamped 1980s tracks apparently). There will also be an additional live act once or twice a week which might be jazz, Latin jazz, comedians, cabaret or unplugged sessions.

The lion's share of the investment will be in lighting, acoustics and sound insulation - Turner is very keen on sound quality and getting the acoustic balance right. A lot of attention will also be paid to ventilation. "I want people to be able to smoke but not at the cost of people coming out smelling of smoke and with stinging eyes." No food will be served downstairs, a decision taken in light of impending smoking laws.
The development of the club will mean an increase in the staffing levels. Turner is already looking for new assistant manager. He also anticipates recruiting two or three bartenders and three cocktail waitresses.

He's also planning to increase the offer on Champagnes, making five or six available by the glass at no more than £20. And there will be a big emphasis on cocktails, too, in keeping with the list available upstairs in the restaurant.

"Once it's all done people will understand the whole concept," enthuses Turner. "The idea is to go to the club for a drink, then go upstairs for dinner, then back downstairs again to be entertained."

Cube & Star

Address: 39A Hoxton Square, London N1
Owner: Mark Turner
Opened: May 2005
Project spend: £400,000
Seats: restaurant 32; bar 36
Staff: 17
August turnover: £40,000

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