Feeling apprehensive..? Whatever you’re expecting, it sure as shit ain’t this!
For the past 16 years the bar has been in private hands, lately with Flash owning the business outright. That era is now drawing to a close, and a not-for-profit social enterprise has been incorporated to assume control. This new entity takes the form of a non-hierarchal worker cooperative. This FAQ explains what the hell is going on!
Didn’t you already do April Fools?
Please explain the rationale for all this?
How is Black Cat structured?
Who are the members?
What is the status of the building?
Where will the money end up?
Why is this a big deal?
Any risk of it imploding?
Won’t everyone just slack off?
Will this intrude on the vibe of the bar?
Can I get involved too?
Is there any scope to invest?
Do you oppose private enterprise?
Perks for patronage?
Does this affect the Krak Head deal?
No seriously, this time it’s for real.
While some companies exist purely to generate profit for a tiny minority, others are predominantly about improving the world we live in. Those who choose employment in the latter typically do so more out of love than in lieu of financial gain. When consumers are aware of this distinction they can make an informed decision about whether to line someone’s pockets, or invest in enhancing society.
Entrepreneurs have been known to cynically cultivate the perception that their business is radical or anarchistic, in order to boost its public image, when in reality it’s all about wealth extraction. However, the truth can readily be reflected in how a business is structured, and where the money ends up…
The new company has no bosses, managers, or shareholders, and is owned and controlled entirely by its workforce on the basis of “one member one vote”. In other words, the people who work in Krakatoa will collectively run the business. Members can be full-time, part-time, casual workers, or even full on volunteers. They have each undertaken to provide at least 40 hours of unpaid labour per annum towards improving the business, in exchange for this equality of power. Outside of that they get paid just like everyone else. Every member also serves as a director.
Ideally we’d like for everyone who works here to become a member, but it’s still early days. Right now, the full members are Flash, Gillian, Jamie, and Jimsin. Probationary members are Ally, Fudge, and Hen. A further four employees and three volunteers are actively undergoing training, and uptake is increasing over time. Nobody is forced into this, it’s up to the individual whether they choose to pursue membership or not, and that won’t impact on their existing employment.
Flash has provisioned the building for use by us on an evergreen basis, under a special lease whereby everything we contribute goes to the upkeep of the building, and we only make those contributions when we can afford to do so. In the event of his death this arrangement continues in trust. Flash does not profit from this.
As a community interest company limited by guarantee we have no shares, and therefore no means of distributing profit. We’re also asset locked. Any money we make must instead be allocated towards our community purpose, which is “to operate tiki dive bar and grassroots music venue for the enhancement of the local music scene”. This translates as keeping the bar going, whilst doing as much as possible to help support local musicians, promoters, sound engineers etc. That could mean anything from organising Eruption, sponsoring festivals, provisioning live recording facilities, or hosting workshops. You name it – we’re open to suggestions.
In short, we don’t profit from your custom, but grassroots music does.
There are only a handful of worker cooperatives in and around Aberdeen, fewer still that are non-hierarchal, and we’re the only one that’s also a not-for-profit. We’re living rocking proof that it’s possible to change the nature of employment, and operate a business primarily for the common good.
While comparatively under represented in the UK, there are over 3 million cooperatives on the planet, directly employing 10% of the word’s population, with 1 in 6 people having some form of involvement, totalling 1.2 billion cooperative members, and collectively grossing revenues of 2.1 trillion US dollars. Source: International Cooperative Alliance. There are well established methodologies for organising in this manner, dating back decades, and we’ve spent the past 3 years putting one of those into practice. Black Cat is affiliated to Co-operatives UK, Social Enterprise UK, The Music Venue Trust, and provisionally Industrial Workers of the World.
In common with most coops, our prospective members undergo significant training, followed by a probation period, which altogether totals 12 months. This imparts principles such as autonomy, rational authority, consensus, collective responsibility, and solidarity. All things that really should be taught in school, but aren’t. The methodology we have adopted is based on the thinking of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, and Rudolf Rocker. Beyond that, we REALLY care about our mission.
Only in that it will feel even more like a community, whilst hopefully being apparent that we’re not a regular workplace setup. The important thing is that our mission statement stipulates that we shall “operate a tiki dive bar and grassroots music venue”. Use of the building is contingent upon this going forward.
Beyond that, Krakatoa retains a separate website and social media presence from Black Cat. Those interested in what were doing should ‘like’ Black Cat’s Facebook page, and anyone who’d like more information should peruse our website.
In theory there are no limits to membership, but for practical purposes we’ll likely draw a line somewhere between 25 and 50 members. Full details on how to apply can be found here.
For musos this affords an opportunity to participate in the ownership and control of a 200 capacity venue, and for booze hounds it means helping to run their own bar.
The company is limited by guarantee not shares, so there’s no equity as such. Black Cat is the sum of the people working here. This is actually true of most companies, in that they’d become near worthless if the entire workforce just upped and left all of a sudden. You can’t own people.
There’s no mechanism for selling this type of social enterprise or distributing a profit from one, Black Cat purely exists to benefit the local community. Provided there’s sufficient support for it, the bar will be around for as long as you want it to be.
The best way to invest is simply to spend money here. Whenever you buy a drink, a toastie, a t-shirt, or pay admission to attend a gig, you are directly supporting this bar, the local music scene, worker self-management, and everything it stands for. That’s where the money goes, and absolutely nowhere else. None of it is squandered on bosses, area managers, executives, or shareholders.
Just buying a latte here not only saves you money, it also contributes to the cause (and the coffee is arguably better here too). We’re just a group of people trying to make the city a slightly nicer place, and by honouring Krakatoa with your custom you enable that. The more spend you route through us, the less of it winds up in some fat cat’s pocket.
There’s no need for any equity bullshit, egality is where were at… this is about workers controlling their own destiny, rather than someone building an empire with other people’s money in order to profit from it.
No, because society is currently tilted in favour of capitalism both legally and economically, which makes it very difficult to get a viable cooperative off the ground.
What we do object to, is the rank hypocrisy of a hierarchal company pertaining to be somehow anarchistic, when the word anarchy literally translates as “without hierarchy”. Likewise we take issue with a profit seeking enterprise giving the illusion of being some sort of social enterprise operating for the common good.
Outside of that, success is (usually) something to be admired.
Due to the fact that every customer is in effect an investor, we’ve already voted through a huge price cut that covers most of our products from Monday to Thursday each week, a cut which is equivalent to a 25% discount off our already reasonable prices. You don’t need any special status to avail yourself of this since it applies equally to everyone who spends money here. Your purchases on those days may also qualify for stamps on our loyalty card, counting towards your admission that weekend. A completed card gets you £5 off a concert, or free entry to NEON LOUNGE.
We also provide generous Student, CAMRA, OAP, and affiliate discounts over and above all that. Yo – students, try £2.16 for a pint 😊. The city is still in the grip of a God awful recession and this is just our way of showing solidarity with the cash strapped.
Weekend prices remain as reasonable as ever. The money we take then helps to fund our music programme, which forms one of the three main planks of our existence. Dive bar through the week, grassroots music venue at the weekend, and somewhere to let it all hang out after midnight.
Help us build a better scene one drink at a time.
See above. Let’s just say that we’d like for everyone to be a Krak Head from now on.