Keeping Nightclubs Closed On June 21 Will Kill The Industry, Critics Warn
A major cull of the country’s nightclubs is just weeks away unless the government sticks to its June 21 roadmap plan and extends its evictions ban, according to the industry’s biggest champions as they launch a final plea for clarity on restrictions.
Nightclubs have been unable to trade for 15 months due to coronavirus rules and are among the very last venues in the country due to reopen in three weeks time as part of the government’s roadmap.
Club owners have already ordered stock, are in the midst of training staff and carrying out extensive maintenance programmes to prepare for the proposed June 21 "unlocking date" – which scientists are warning could be derailed due to rising case numbers.
Today it was revealed that the number of people testing positive rose 31 percent in seven days in part due to the Delta variant – the WHO's new name for the India variant.
But the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said that Boris Johnson’s position has not shifted since last Thursday and that he cannot "see anything currently in the data" to knock his unlocking plan off course.
“The government needs to communicate directly and very quickly with the industry and be very clear about what they’re looking to do,” said Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), a sector which has a £92 billion turnover in the UK in 2019.
“I believe they should open on June 21. There’s a level of confidence in the [government’s] Event Research Programme and there’s a level of confidence the government should have within our sector that we can deliver.
“We’re worried we will get very late notice on this and 95 percent of our businesses are already spending inordinate amounts of money to get prepared for the 21 and that’s going to be lost if it gets pushed back. We need to open on June 21 without fail.”
He said the government need to begin treating the illness like an endemic, and look at the data very carefully.
"No-one wants to compromise anyone’s health but we’re in a position where we need to start treating this like an endemic or we are going to literally cull hundreds of night time economy businesses without even giving them the opportunity to open,” he said.
Pre-Covid more than 1.5 million people in the UK were employed in jobs taking place between 6pm and 6am, an industry which adds £35 billion to the economy.
This weekend the roadmap’s dates were thrown into question when leading scientists, including Professor Ravindra Gupta, who sits on Nervtag, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, urged caution. He said: “If you look at the costs and benefits of getting it wrong, I think it is heavily in favour of delay.”
The NTIA is also calling for the government to extend the moratorium on evictions for commercial properties which runs out on June 30.
Without trading, businesses have built up significant debts and rent arrears, and there is wide-spread fear landlords will start issuing eviction notices to nightclub owners as soon as they are legally able to do so.
He said some clubs will be in a position where they open on June 21, only to find themselves facing eviction nine days later. Other branches of hospitality like pubs and restaurants have had an extra few weeks to prove to their landlords that their businesses are still viable and an income is coming in, he suggested.
Sacha Lord, who co-founded Parklife festival and the Warehouse Project and is Greater Manchester’s Night Time Economy Adviser said the uncertainty around the June 21 reopening date is causing a “wave of panic” across the sector today and there is also a risk of a summer of illegal parties and raves which bring with them a host of problems.
He said this date had been “etched on the minds” of operators and delays to this critical milestone will have severe consequences for the sector.
He said: “Landlords are circling and in most cases, demanding the rent arrears accrued over the last 15 months, and once the rent moratorium falls away at the end of June, we could see thousands of venues fall by the wayside if restrictions are not fully lifted.”
Without nightclubs reopening this summer could see the return of unregulated, unlicensed illegal mass gatherings, which in itself could bring anti-social behaviour.
“So long as hospitalisations remain low, we must continue on our path to normality, for the mental health of operators and society at large,” he said.
Government sources said they appreciated that this period of time is frustrating for night club owners, but the figures need to be reviewed day by day.
Minister for small business, Paul Scully, said told Sky News that the government wants to see the latest data and would make a decision by June 14.
“We know case numbers are going up. We do want to make sure that we will only open up based on data, not those dates, so we will use the latest information. This isn’t fudge, this is making sure we don’t speculate and use the most accurate information to make really important decisions.”
Conservative MP Sir Desmond Swayne told PoliticsHome he believed that nighclubs should be able to open on 21 June. “The disease is now endemic and we have to have a proper sense of proportion learning to live with it," he said.
“There will be new variants from now until kingdom come, we cannot go on suppressing human interaction and economic activity as a response or we will live in fear and penury.”