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The help I just received from the capital is enough to fight the fires at most

The help I just received from the capital is enough to fight the fires at most

– For fans of jazz, BJC has become a real holiday of red letters reopen Today is July 18th. How long is considered insured club practical?
– It’s hard to say exactly at the moment, but as before, we’ll do everything we can to keep the place alive in the future. We are the epicenter of the Hungarian jazz life, and arguably also internationally we host the best of the genre, including many Grammy Award-winning artists. Not only do they provide a truly prestigious and dignified venue, but also Hungarian performers and Hungarian hipsters.

We hold over 500 concerts each year, and in the spirit of equal opportunity and talent management, many of these events are free to attend. We host nearly 40 percent of our local jazz concerts, and we also play an important role in the lives of younger generations of musicians, as we are the teaching place for the Jazz Department of the Ferenc Liszt University of Music. Our students hold rehearsals, ceremonial performances, exam parties and master classes. But we also provide free services similar to Bartok Conservatory. In addition, the Hungarian Jazz Society has found a home here, and we have also become the headquarters of Jazz TV and Jazz Rádió. We cannot let all this go to waste.

Zoltán Susszer in front of the Hollán Ernő utca building (photo: András Eberling)

– How can a place that plays such a prominent role in the local and even international jazz scene get to the point where it closes for a while due to rent arrears, and then has to continue to fight for its survival?
– Unfortunately, the rent payment has not been smooth for a long time, but we are only talking about three months. Although we have sounded the alarm in the Budapest municipality since October, they have not heard from us. By June, we had reached the point where a competent capital asset management firm had locked up the property housing the club by changing locks and using padlocks.

Although we had previously received a verbal promise from the metropolitan government to resolve the situation, they did not reply substantively or in writing, nor did they reply to our many letters which we have sent continuously since the fall, as a record of the oral negotiations. Now, when the situation has deteriorated to the point of closure and the noise has increased, the Mayor has heard and done what I have asked and suggested since October.

– But, as far as I know, their financial difficulties were due primarily to the very low support they received from the Metropolitan Municipality.
– This is a complex issue, as we currently have eight sources of income available to maintain the club. In addition to ticket revenue, hospitality, event organization, percentage provided from taxes, special loans, sponsorship and marketing income, and amounts received from rental fees, the support portion played a prominent role at 22.5 percent of our balance sheet. This dropped to 7 percent, and the task can be clearly seen here. In 2012, while mayor of István Tarlós, we signed a public service contract with the Metropolitan Municipality, the purpose of which was to support the municipality to perform public service tasks, as well as to provide cover for the club’s rent. In 2020, during the Covid pandemic, the current municipality reduced the subsidy amount to a third, while rents increased by 44.3 percent by 2023, from 833,500 HUF plus VAT per month to 1.2 million HUF plus VAT per month. The HUF 10 million patch just received is enough to fight the temporary fires alone.

The BJC Center hosts more than 500 concerts each year (Photo: András Éberling)

– What is the real solution to the situation?
– Communicating and being treated as a partner would definitely be a step forward. Ex-managers can and will be called upon in justified cases. Today, I have no direct contact with anyone in the capital on cultural policy lines, and official letters have not been answered since October. It is impossible to run a high culture without subsidies. You have to learn, the palm tree grows under load. It is not easy to cooperate with the current administration of the city. Mr. Karacsoni left our message to start the discussion without a response.
In the future, a large number of cultural institutions will have to be prepared to restructure and expand their sources of income. The Hungarian Jazz Club will continue to the end and we also want to run the club by putting our other income into the financial operation.

Cover photo: Zoltán Susszer, President of the Jazzart Public Foundation (Photo: András Éberling)

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