Music Venue Trust calls for government rethink on latest Covid restrictions

Music Venue Trust calls for government rethink on latest Covid restrictions

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has urged the government to rethink aspects of the new coronavirus restrictions pertaining to live music.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson today set out the country's return to the "three tier" system when the second national lockdown ends on December 2, while the controversial 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants will be eased. 

However, MVT CEO Mark Davyd said the latest rules - most notably around alcohol sales - posed a "very specific challenge" for grassroots music venues.

"We encourage the government to think again on the issue of alcohol sales at permitted ticketed events within the new Tier 2 proposals," he said. "Under these restrictions grassroots music venues are technically permitted to deliver live music events. However, the government has announced that alcohol will only be able to be consumed if it is accompanied by 'a substantial meal'.

"Music Venue Trust has repeatedly detailed to the government that income within the grassroots sector derives 65% from wet sales and 35% from ticket sales. It is therefore not possible to deliver an economically viable event in this sector without the financial support provided by alcohol sales. In addition, 92% of grassroots music venues do not have the necessary facilities to provide substantial food."

Davyd said the consumption of food should be treated equally to the consumption of culture, and called for a "common sense" solution.

"We applaud the government's intention to allow live music to resume where it can be safely delivered but we believe that this ambition can be delivered within the guidelines by identifying the purchase of a ticket as having equivalent intention by the consumer to the purchase of a meal," he said. 

"Failure to reach equivalency between food and culture on this issue results in a distorted market where an individual can choose to attend a restaurant, consuming as much alcohol as they wish prior to a gig, but upon arrival at the event cannot consume any alcohol at all.

"We believe therefore that common sense within the restrictions is the most likely route by which the public will understand and comply with them. We strongly encourage the government to think again on the specifics of Tier 2 restrictions in relation to ticketed cultural events."

The further restrictions were slammed by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which claimed the sector had been "disproportionately and unfairly targeted with further restrictions with no substantiated scientific evidence that these measures will suppress transmission".

NTIA CEO Michael Kill said: “The industry has been left angry and frustrated by the new restrictions set out by the Prime Minister today. This shows a complete lack of consideration and understanding of our sector. This will have a catastrophic impact on thousands of businesses and jobs across the sector by the end of the year. 

"Our sector has worked incredibly hard alongside government departments, to ensure that our businesses are ‘Covid-safe’, only to be hit again with unworkable restrictions that have no evidence base. We are being condemned to an excruciating financial hardship, until the Government can rally around a workable vaccine solution.

“The support from furlough is welcome. However, sadly many of these businesses will not survive to retain their staff and will suffer from a continuation of current extreme problems around cash fluidity, commercial rent debt and exit strategy. We can’t help but feel that our industry is being sacrificed for other sectors to open during the festive period."

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