40 MPs, including Brighton’s Caroline Lucas, tell Chancellor and PM, act now or see ‘extinction’ of UK nightlife

Posted On 19 Feb 2021 at 5:20 pm

Dua Lipa live at The Hope & Ruin in Brighton in 2016. Without initially playing small venues she would not be where she is today! (pic Nick Linazasoro)

Yesterday, Caroline Lucas (the Brighton Pavilion MP) along with other MPs told the Chancellor and PM to act now or see the ‘extinction’ of UK nightlife.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Night Time Economy, a cross-party group of more than 40 MPs, has just published the findings of its recent inquiry into the impact of Covid which warns that the sector is at risk of ‘extinction’ unless the Government takes urgent action. The MPs urge the Prime Minister and Chancellor to bring forward a sector-specific grant package and a detailed roadmap for reopening the sector to avoid ‘irreversible losses’ that would create ‘ghost towns’ across the country and hinder the wider economic recovery.

The report, entitled ‘Covid-19 and UK Nightlife’, looked at the impact of the pandemic and Government support for businesses in the night time economy, including night clubs, bars, pubs, live music venues, festivals, and supply chain businesses. It involved a survey which received over 20,000 responses from consumers, employers, employees, and freelancers in the sector.

Brighton’s Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar – now a distant memory! (pic Nick Linazasoro)

Key findings of the survey included:

  • 85% of people working in the night time economy are considering leaving the industry.
  • 78% of all employees in the sector had at some point been on furlough.
  • Businesses in the night time economy had on average made 37% of their total workforce redundant.
  • In the second half of 2020, businesses in the night time economy traded at an average of 28% of their annualised pre-Covid turnover.
  • Only 36% self-employed nightlife workers have been able to claim the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Sadly missed – one of the last photos taken inside Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar (pic Nick Linazasoro)

In addition, the report includes numerous detailed personal testimonies of those in the sector describing how the pandemic has affected them.

Outside of periods of forced closure, night time economy businesses have seen numerous and changing restrictions on their ability to trade, including curfews, social distancing measures like the ‘rule of six’, the loss of vertical drinking, and requirements for a ‘substantial meal’ with alcohol. Businesses have faced significant costs and investments in adapting to new conditions, and many, including a majority of nightclubs, have been unable to trade at all.

The inquiry examined written submissions from hundreds of businesses and local authorities, including the Greater London Authority and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, key trade bodies UK Hospitality and UK Music as well as the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS).

The joint DCMS-BEIS submission recognised the importance of nightlife to the economy as a whole, noting that after the 2008 financial crisis the sector “helped drive the UK’s recovery more generally.” Despite this, the inquiry found that economic support for the night time economy had been “insufficient”, containing significant gaps.

Jeff Smith MP, Chair of the APPG and a former self-employed DJ, warned that the prospect of many night time economy businesses going bust would leave town and city centres across the country looking like ‘ghost towns’, noting the important role these spaces play in local economies and communities.  He commented:

“Our world-leading night clubs, pubs, bars, and live music venues are cornerstones of our communities. They drive so much economic activity both locally and nationally, and bring hope, joy and entertainment to millions across the UK. Our findings today reveal this industry is on its knees, in desperate need of additional support from the Government and a concrete plan for reopening. Without these interventions, many of these viable businesses will go under, leaving city and town centres resembling ghost towns. If the Government is serious about its ‘levelling up’ agenda it must act now to save this sector and avoid untold damage to the social fabric of this country.”

The Richmond Bar concert venue – Gone! (pic Nick Linazasoro)

Some of the key recommendations for Government included in the report were:

  • Extending the furlough scheme until businesses can operate without restrictions, and extending VAT and business rates relief through 2021.
  • Producing a roadmap for reopening late night venues based on the vaccination programme and mass testing.
  • Expanding eligibility for the Culture Recovery Fund and proving a sector-specific support package.
  • Providing a Government-backed insurance schemes and solutions to spiralling commercial rent arrears.
  • Introducing a Treasury-backed scheme to boost demand once restrictions are eased.
    Appointing a UK Government Night Time Economy advisor.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, commented:
“We are pleased to support the APPG for the Night Time Economy when it became clear our industry’s needs weren’t being heard by policy makers. But it gives me no pleasure today to announce the findings of this report, which confirm the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on UK nightlife.

“Every day I speak with the dedicated people that make up this industry – from artists to engineers, bar staff to security, and production to promoters – they have shown great resilience in the face of adversity.

“But resilience only gets you so far without the required support. We need more assistance and a detailed plan for reopening now. Otherwise, much of what defines a night out in the UK will be lost forever.”

  1. SamC Reply

    Reopening nightclubs too early is suicidal. With an ever-changing virus a definitive roadmap for anything is not possible. Opening night clubs will be contingent on many, many preceding events and facts that have not yet happened. Too many actions have been predicated on flawed assumptions – we should learn form that.

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