Night-time industry confronts government with ‘science-backed’ reopening plan

Night-time industry

A consortium of leading night-time operators, including the Night Time Industries Association, is calling on the government to save the UK’s late night sector from collapse.

The late night sector, which comprises nightclubs, late night bars, music venues and events spaces, has been “largely forgotten” by the UK government since venues were forced to close on 20 March 2020.

Late night operators do not have a clear reopening plan from government nor further financial assistance despite pubs being given the green light on 4 July. The Chancellor’s furlough scheme is also due to come to an end in October, presenting further issues.

The majority of late night operators have not qualified for any grants, bounceback loans, CBILS or CLBILS loans and as yet have had no help with rents. Many are under immense pressure from landlords and banks, and have prioritised the payment of fixed costs in the hope that further government support will be forthcoming.

New research from the NTIA shows that almost 60% night time venues will not survive longer than two months without further government support. It also reveals that more than 70% of night time operators will be making more than half their workforce redundant from September, while 83% of night time sector businesses will be making people redundant following the end of the Covid Job Retention Scheme.

In response, the consortium has launched a report, supported by the Institute of Occupational Medicine, which examines the science behind Covid-19 and how to mitigate the spread of the virus.

It calls on the UK government to allow for the reopening of clubs across the UK, and provides a clear roadmap for late night venues, including nightclubs, to do so safely and within government guidelines.

Key findings

  • The core market for clubs and venues are amongst the lowest at risk in the hospitality sector.
  • Clubs and venues have more mitigation control measures than retail, most pubs, restaurants, households and illegal raves.
  • People tend to turn up for an optimum period that is typically two hours and as such the capacity at any one time is well within the total capacity of the venue.
  • Overall, capacity restrictions to 75% of legal building occupancy based on regulations will ensure distancing is possible throughout the venue.

The report highlights that the safe operation of these venues can be assured by implementing a range of mitigating measures, many of which are already in place, including ID scans upon entry; temperature checks upon entry; crowd control through the representation of licensed security personnel; contactless payment; sophisticated ventilation systems; large square footage venues, allowing for social distancing; frequent and high intensity cleaning and hygiene regimes.

The UK late night leisure sector contributes £66bn to UK GDP (6% of total GDP) and employs 1.3m, (8% of the UK’s total employment). Refraining from allowing clubs to reopen or providing further much-needed financial support will:

  • Negatively affect high streets and businesses up and down the country, as consumers spend less on clothes, beauty treatments and services associated with nights out. According to Deltic Night Index May 2018, consumers spend approximately £17.56 with local businesses in preparation for a night out.
  • Encourage further social unrest, particularly illegal raves which have been increasing since lockdown began. In contrast to the safe and regulated space of a nightclub, these unregulated events put those who attend them in danger, waste precious emergency services time and contribute to regional outbreaks of Covid-19.
  • Severely limit job options for those aged 18-25. The permanent closure of these venues would be the latest blow to the age group, many of whom rely on the sector to pay higher education costs; costs which will remain the same despite switching to remote learning over the coming months as universities remain closed.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “We have now reached a critical point. In the absence of a clear reopening strategy from government, or the promise of financial support, huge numbers of businesses within our industry are facing financial collapse and thousands of job losses.

“The report we have launched clearly shows that there is a case for the safe reopening of night-time leisure venues, including nightclubs, late night bars, live music venues and event spaces.

“Whilst many of these are large capacity venues, it is important to note that they already have many of the safety protocols in place to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

“We implore the government to give us the opportunity to reopen in a safe, risk-assessed way. Doing so will protect thousands of jobs, contribute to the struggling UK economy and ensure our towns and cities remain economically healthy and culturally vibrant.”

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