The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has said it is "saddened but not surprised" by the government's decision to postpone the return of indoor live music concerts.
Theatres, music halls and other venues closed since the Covid-19 shutdown in March were to be allowed to reopen at reduced capacity in the UK from tomorrow (August 1), but this has now been pushed back to August 15 at the earliest due to a rise in coronavirus infections.
MVT has maintained that small music venues cannot reopen with the current restrictions in place and have called on the government acknowledge that this cannot realistically take place before October 1 at the earliest. Moreover, the organisation said the government’s main focus should be on providing a package of support that is distributed "quickly and efficiently" to protect the grassroots sector.
Music Venue Trust has repeatedly informed the government that live music events in grassroots music venues would be extraordinarily difficult to stage, not economically viable and at rtisk of being cancelled at short notice during the current pandemic
The MVT's full statement reads as follows:
"Music Venue Trust and the network of grassroots music venues across the UK are saddened but not surprised to hear that live music events planned from Saturday, August 1 in response to government advice must now be cancelled.
"Since May 2020, Music Venue Trust has repeatedly informed the government that live music events in grassroots music venues would be extraordinarily difficult to stage, not economically viable, and at risk of being cancelled at short notice during the current pandemic.
"A number of venues across the country have attempted to stage such events based on advice from the government, incurring substantial costs to make their venues safe. That expenditure now adds to the growing mountain of debts accrued by those venues working within the government guidelines.
"Music Venue Trust has consistently asserted that no grassroots music venue will be able to stage live music events before October 1 at the earliest, yet the Prime Minister has stated that the new reopening date might be as early as August 15.
"Music Venue Trust would like to restate and emphasise the position of the sector, which is that a clear and decisive position on the part of government to provide support for grassroots music venues in the form of efficiently distributed crisis funding until such time as they can reopen safely and viably would provide the much needed clarity that venues, artists, audiences and the wider public need."
UK Music acting CEO Tom Kiehl described the announcement, made in a press conference today by PM Boris Johnson, as "a bitter blow" for the business.
"The postponement of the easing of lockdown restrictions is very disappointing news," he said. "We respect and understand the government's decision. However, it is a bitter blow for the music industry which risks being left behind as other sectors get back on their feet.
"Having a date for indoor performances with social distancing was an important symbolic step on the road to recovery. The decision to push the date back by at least two weeks shows how vulnerable the music industry is in this pandemic and why financial support measures for musicians, creators and others must continue.
"The UK Music industry contributed £5.2 billion a year to the UK economy and sustained 190,000 jobs before Covid struck. It is vital that the Government continues to help the industry recover."
Last weekend, the government pledged £2.25 million of emergency funding to support UK grassroots music venues at imminent risk of collapse.
Read this week's cover story on the issues facing the UK's grassroots sector here.