Does the beat go on for our nightclubs and bars?
Britain’s nightclubs, bars and casinos are due to reopen from June 21st at the earliest with most being closed for nearly 12 months since the start of the first national lockdown in March 2020.
But the Night Time Industries Association (NITA) say that even if this happens, the sector is still facing an existential threat to its very existence.
A recent survey of more than 100 of their members reported that 81% say they won’t survive beyond the end of March without further support from the Government.
Additionally, 86% of respondents have had to make redundancies this year with 65% making more than half of their entire workforce redundant before the end of 2020. This is before taking into account that 43% of respondents had not received any grant support from the government during this period.
While lots of industries are pleading their case to the Chancellor for special treatment and support, the night time industry feels its case is first among equals for consideration.
NITA Chief Executive Michael Kill outlined the various threats his members are facing on multiple fronts.
He said: “Throughout this pandemic and the restrictive measures levied against the sector, it’s clear that our businesses are being systematically eradicated from society.
“They continue to be excluded from the narrative of press announcements and planning, and though misconceptions and a misguided understanding of the sector, we’ve been given little or no opportunity to re-engage even with very clear ability to open our spaces safely.”
Kill outlined how current proposed changes in planning reform under permitted development rights was another huge threat to the sector as it had the potential to allow for the demolition and rebuilding of vacant and redundant light industrial buildings used as clubs and venues as housing instead.
He said: “Given that over 88% of nightclub businesses are over two quarters of rent in arrears, we’re poised for a windfall of landlords at the end of March when the forfeiture moratoria comes to an end. Reclaiming their property and utilising this planning mechanism to convert many of our much loved cultural spaces and social environments into housing.
“Getting help from banks and financial services, whether through insurance or lending within the sector, has been near impossible, confidence is at new lows coupled with the ineligibility to access much financial provision outside of furlough.
“The extensive period of closure without recognition is perceived by the sector as negligence.”
A recent All-Party Parliamentary Group report into the Night Time Economy found that it contributed as much as £66 billion to the UK economy but also acknowledged the unique logistical challenges facing an industry that thrives on close human contact as part of the experience.
While the Group suggested that latest flow testing along with vaccinations could be a key component in the reopening, Luke Laws, operations director of Fabric nightclub in London said that the reality of this would see a socially-distanced queue stretch 1.7 miles from their front door if 2000 people, their capacity, wanted to gain entry.
This also doesn’t take into account if negative Covid-19 tests were required for entry – where the clubbers would wait for results and who would be responsible for administering and paying for the tests.
Mr Laws said that they had looked at scenarios such as renting and closing off nearby roads to allow for this but this would be untenable as it would involve at least 240 additional staff just to administer.
Owners also cite the issue of dancing and compulsory mask wearing as other negative factors affecting their reopening. For instance, having a socially distanced dancefloor would see customer numbers fixed at below break-even points for many operators.
The industry as a whole will be hoping for targeted specific support coming from the Budget if the majority of clubs and bars are to survive in the long run but with lots of other industries also seeking support – they might have to remain behind the velvet rope for longer.
Nobody likes calling last orders but it’s an essential task for any operator.
This also applies if they take a long, hard look at their own business circumstances and likelihood of recovery.
While there may be some support forthcoming in the Budget, it might be too little, too late if isolated or insufficient.
The year of lockdown might also have given owners different ideas and impetus about what they want to do going ahead.
They might have discovered a new direction they want to pursue or a new venture they’d like to try but can’t because they think their previous one will hold them back and weigh them down.
A free initial consultation with one of our expert advisors will allow us to explore options with you including various ways on how to close your business with a minimum of stress and fuss.
There’s always a weekend every week so if you feel the party’s winding down, let us help you start your next one.