The Royal Oak in Roath, where I stopped for an enjoyable open-mic night in November, has unfortunately put an end to live band nights for the foreseeable future. There will be no more tunes on Friday evenings as a lack of support means the pub’s function room will no longer be a venue for local talent. Nights were cancelled in December and January before landlord Rhys and landlady Jen took the painful decision to postpone them indefinitely. Rhys has called the Oak a “music-lead pub” and the couple, who took it over around a year ago, said they tried to keep the nights going but couldn’t drum up the level of interest live music at the pub used to attract.
“Quite simply it was a financial decision,” Jen said. “On a typical band night we had five people in the room and it costs about £200 with staffing and equipment so we were losing money. If the room was full and there was support and there was demand there would not have been a question: we would never have dropped the bands.” The Oak enjoyed the support of customer and Radio Cardiff DJ Scott Travers, sponsoring his Big Scott show on Mondays and Tuesdays, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get the punters in.
Though Jen said the reaction of most patrons has been supportive, the Oak has been a gig venue for decades and there has been understandable disappointment. Cardiff gig-goer Carl DeAbreu said on Facebook: “Been supporting live music @ The Oak for over 30 yrs and will be very sorry to see it stop. 20 odd yrs ago when the likes of The Superclarkes & Snatch It Back were playing you could barely get through the door it was so packed. There’s still quality music out there and pubs like the Oak selling good relatively cheap beer but the sad fact is people ain’t going out and socialising in this way any more. A sad sign of the times I’m afraid.”
Musician and Cardiff University student Marc Smith added: “It’s such a great shame….As the capital city of a “musical nation” Cardiff sadly lacks venues for small-ish live music events!!! And the loss of another one makes it ever more difficult for local musicians to have somewhere to play & be heard.” But Rhys and Jen are open to the suggestion, put forward by Marc, of groups playing for free. Said Jen: “We are certainly not against the idea. We would love there to be live music here again if bands are willing and they understand I just can’t afford to pay them what they had before.” The pub’s open-mic nights are also still very much on so one way or another, there will still be music at the Royal Oak.