The Zanzibar’s Scott Burgess: “People are working against each other, we want to bring Liverpool’s music community together’


Scott Burgess has taken over the running of Liverpool’s iconic music venue The Zanzibar

The Zanzibar enters a new dawn and Getintothis’ Steven Doherty chats with Scott Burgess about the big plans in store.

Back in the early 2000’s, I used to manage a couple of bands in and around Liverpool.

I say manage, it usually just consisted of me posting CD’s and press kits off to pretty much anyone connected to the north-west music scene, and then being ignored by each and every one of them.

This went on for a few months, until one day there was a rare email in the inbox.

It was from someone called Tony Butler.Of course we’ll put you on,” it read.

When you’re finding your feet as a new band that sort of message was a godsend.

There must be hundreds of bands that all received that encouraging first acceptance. And it didn’t end there.

When you came to play the Zanzibar, you were always treated like a ‘proper’ band, no matter how little experience you had, just like all the big names that had played there before.

The main memory was how keen the venue was to get you sounding brilliant, they took it so seriously.

When the one man driving force behind it, the late, great Tony Butler sadly died back in August 2018, the Merseyside musical scene held its collective breath to see what happened next.

We caught up with new owner of the Zanzibar, Scott Burgess to find out what the future holds.

Leaf on Smithdown Road in Liverpool to open in September

Getintothis: Hi Scott, how aware were you of the Zanzibar before you took over, did you have much dealings with Tony before he died?

Scott Burgess: “I was originally in Liverpool University studying engineering, when I got a few bar jobs to help me along the way (standard uni procedure) and I properly fell in love with the world of bartending.

I worked in a bar called Some Place, which is upstairs at the Zanzibar, to begin with and helped with the concept and design and five years after opening, I was offered the chance to buy it off the previous directors.

Through those years of looking after Some Place, I had formed a great relationship with Tony Butler and after his sad passing, myself and the Zanzi team were in limbo with what to do. I took the decision to work a lot closer to the team to build on Tony’s solid foundations.

We are fully aware of the legacy and going back in the archives of the Zanzibar and seeing the list of artists who have played here in the past is astonishing with everyone from Grandmaster Flash and Bugzy Malone to The 1975 and even Peter Kay.”

Of course, these things are never always straightforward. Scott acknowledges some of the problems he’s faced along the way.

“Since ownership, we have faced many trials and tribulations but made some solid relationships moving forward and cant wait to help bring the musical community spirit back to Liverpool.”

The Zanzibar

Speaking of the musical community, the venue has watched the streets around it change somewhat over the past few years, the increasing student presence brings with it positive and negative impacts.

But with venues such as Phase One and Sound thriving, there’s no doubt the Seel Street area is back on the up and in need of some rock and roll late night commotion.

Scott agrees, “We have teamed up with someone special to bring an uber late night weekly night on a Saturday till 6 bells. Watch this space.”

Getintothis: Where do you see your role in the Liverpool music scene?

Scott Burgess: “For me, my aim is to bring the local scene closer together.

Everybody is working towards the same goal, to champion music within the city, but everyone is working against each other.

I am in the middle of starting a brand up called “20 Mile Radar” (20MR) which focuses on unsigned bands within a 20 mile radius of The Zanzibar, giving them a chance to reach a demographic and get paid for their talents. Our focus is on the young local bands.”

A sometime criticism of the Zanzibar was always an inability to attract the bigger names on a regular basis, Scott agrees.

“We want to follow on the tradition and legacy by trying to attract them bigger names.”

Crowd watches on at The Zanzibar

Getintothis: Anyone in particular?

Scott Burgess: “That’s a big question, my music taste is so eclectic and my wish list is long. I don’t think I’d be able to single out a single artist but Gramatik have always been a solid favourite and have always wanted to see him live, I also think Tame Impala(even though they’re maahooosive) would be there on my bucket list.”

On a personal level, Scott sees himself as a very much an owner on the front line, spending his day times “doing anything from drinks development and staff training to show rep, admin and banking.”

His nights are no less busy.

I’ll be at every show in the venue, whether that’s me working the door,on the bar or looking after the bands. I am as hands on as possible, first one in and last one out.”

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Getintothis: So, what’s changed between when you took over and now?

Scott Burgess: “In the short time I have had The Zanzibar, I have implemented similar service styles from past experiences working in a multitude of venues.

Through this, people get really looked after when they walk through the doors, whether they are a guest in the building, a promoter or artist and people leave with a smile on their face. All comes back to the gratification of seeing people have a good time.”

The Zanzibar

Getintothis: And finally, any major changes for the future?

Scott Burgess: “We have some unbelievable plans moving forward!

Our biggest one is to hopefully build on top of The Zanzibar roof. That’s all I’m saying.

We will be doing a refit inside the venue and modernising, whilst linking in our Absinthe and Cognac bar, Some Place, as a private gig space, primarily focusing on small intimate gigs.”

Courtney Barnett in the Zanzibar at Sound City 2014

Sounds ambitious, but after speaking to Scott, the city can breath easy, there’s no doubt that The Zanzibar is in safe hands.

It knows it’s place in the city, a sign in the entrance says it all, supporting local music is of paramount importance.

Scott ends by telling us that “up to now, it’s has been an honour to build what Tony’s created and can’t wait for the future ahead”.

We’ll raise a glass to that. Exciting times.

September at The Zanzibar: buy tickets here.

  • September 4: Sumati Rubber Dub
  • September 6: Death Blooms 500 + Oceanis
  • September 7: Mammoth Penguins
  • September 12:  Sumati Tiger and the Lights
  • September 13:  No Fun and the Go Go Cage, King Khans Louder than Death, Ohmns / Los Coyotemen
  • September 14:  Halfway Home  Melwood / Evertim
  • September 15:  Jake Warner Hire 11-6  
  • September 20:  ILL  – The Post Romantics
  • September 21: Sumati Ronga / WFAC / Rongo Ronge / Stores / Ostrich
  • September 22: Richard Strange
  • September 24:  Bitch Palace Dali Ryus Single Launch
  • September 25: Rock the Foundry
  • September 26: Happy Accidents
  • September 27: Musicians Against Homelessness feat Sky Valley Mistress / FUSS / Oranj Son / Roots to nowhere / Three from above           
  • September 28    Musicians Against Homelessness feat Ontick, Diana Wolfpack, Gunmen Of The Apocalypse, Paddy Clarke & The Fancy Rats, Kicking Seagulls, Vile Assembly             
  • September 29:  Manoeveuvres – OMD Tribute