Industry reacts to government plan on easing lockdown

Industry reacts to government plan on easing lockdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made a televised address on easing the lockdown measures.

The roadmap to returning to everyday life includes strict social distancing and a return to work for some industries, such as construction and engineering.

But a phased reopening of shops will not take place until June 1 at the earliest. The reopening of public places, such as venues, would not take place until July 1 at the earliest.

"Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to re-open safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part," according to the latest guidance in the government's document on easing the lockdown.

The Night Time Industries Association has responded by expressing concerns about the future of its members’ businesses.

“Following the Prime Ministers announcement tonight of the government's planned measures for social and economic re-engagement, we have been left again with uncertainty and concern over the details and the exact timeline of when we will be able to open our businesses,” said a statement.

The NTIA members include independent bars, nightclubs, restaurant owners, pubs, festival and live music event operators, as well as music managers and other supporters of the benefits of the sector from the world of business, culture, media and politics.

Michael Kill, CEO, NTIA, said: “We recognise the challenges around balancing the measures to safeguard public health against securing the protection of the economy, but the NTE & events sector will collapse under any proposed restrictions on business capacity, enforced physical distancing, increased resource costs, additional high level PPE, bringing into question not only the viability of businesses but whether this is something that can be managed within these spaces.

“The Government must engage with the Sector, at the right levels to understand and effect sector-specific recommendations, with a clear timeline and comprehensive re-engagement strategy, supported by an extended financial support provision, through sector specific furlough & grants. Without this we will see 50% of these businesses fail and over two million jobs lost.”

Mike Grieve, of SubClub Glasgow, said: “Fundamentally I don’t see how social distancing can work in a nightclub setting, regardless of the size of the space. The very essence of club culture is about sharing emotion and excitement as a crowd in close physical contact with each other. That’s not to mention the practical difficulties of managing bar service, toilets, security searches etc. or the fact that most clubs need 90%+ capacity to break even financially. Until we can reopen to 100% capacity I think clubs like ours will remain closed.”

Ben Newby, operations director, MJR TEG, said: “The impact of social distancing on the night time, hospitality and entertainment industry is going to cause irreparable harm as the very essence of the industry is social interaction. At the moment, there are only two options being looked at. Either venues cannot open or they can open at reduced capacity. Neither of these options are sustainable or possible as both will result in job losses, closures and the end of the fourth biggest industry in the country in financial terms. The industry needs to be given a unique consideration as it will be the most impacted by its very nature. Instead of a gradual, staggered capacity return the industry needs to be supported by the government to allow them to remain closed without going out of business.

“Extending the furlough period for the hospitality industry, a VAT freeze and licence fee suspension, for example, will allow all venues to have the time to plan and manage without having to come up with solutions of how to sustain a business that cannot trade at reduced capacity with no support. We then need to look at measures that will minimise and control the risk and reporting of infection so customer confidence can be strengthened. This will only work if the government announces with confidence that mass gatherings and social experiences can take place and will work with our industry to put realistic measures in place. Through responsible operations, communication and procedures from both the industry and government we can ensure that our world class entertainment, hospitality, venues, promoters and artists survive this time to continue the history of excellence that has been created so far.”

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