The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has raised concerns over the impact social distancing could have on the night time economy and events sector.
As part of the cultural renewal taskforce announced earlier this month, an entertainment and events working group is being created, bringing together representatives from around the country to develop advice and guidance on the reopening of cultural venues.
However, the NTIA said question marks remain on what the government's expectations are in terms of public health measures and whether businesses will be unworkable under the expected conditions.
NTIA CEO Michael Kill said: “Will the Government take a more pragmatic approach and allow businesses to generate their own guides to mitigate the risk presented to us, as is the case with current Health & Safety measures? Without clarity, no one can plan, prepare, understand the viability. Our Industry wants to open, we don't want to open and put people at risk, and the last thing anyone wants is for us to re-engage the market for us to be closed two to three weeks later following another spike in transmission and deaths.”
Across Europe many countries are considering reducing the 2m social distancing guide in line with the World Health Organisations 1m recommendation. However, many businesses in the night-time economy and events sector feel this is not an option.
The NTIA is invited to join the Task Force working groups alongside other key organisations to draw on industry knowledge and experience to assess whether there are safe and workable solutions for the industry.
Katharine Khan, Village Underground & EartH, London, said: “With 13 years experience running the 700 capacity Village Underground live music & club space in Shoreditch, London, we already know how many people we need to come through our doors to cover our costs. Working on a regular basis at the much reduced capacities that would be required by social distancing will not enable us to cover our overheads, in fact it would run us into a financial hole pretty quickly. We will need to find something else to do with the venue, either instead of running socially distanced events, or alongside them, otherwise we won't exist by 2022.
"Our newer venue, EartH in Dalston is already covering the costs of a massive restoration project as well as overheads so the situation is similar if not more difficult. Our best options at the moment seem to be to find something else to do with the spaces until we can reopen at 'usual' capacity, and to pursue live streaming. If we are successful and can protect the businesses and the leases on the venues through temporary alternative uses we may be able to run some events under the new rules alongside but they would all be likely to lose money in themselves.”
Dan Perrin of Studio 338, London, said: “We have remained shut, followed all guidelines and understand that we need to be patient and responsible at this critical time. It cannot, however, be fair, or right, to rush our industry into reopening with restrictions and conditions which will inevitably lead to financial ruin for the vast majority.
"Many of our overheads are fixed and cannot be scaled to make lower capacities viable. Not only that but the entire experience of going to enjoy music in a social, worry free environment, will be severely compromised and could cause permanent and terminal damage to live music in the U.K. - this is an issue which is unique to our industry......bringing people together is at the centre of what we do and have always done.
It seems to me that we should be sensible with the reintroduction of events. Do not rush to reopen them, but repay our support by protecting us until it is safe to reopen in a way which will bring London’s music scene bursting back into life rather than seeing all of the heritage and culture we are so famous for become a victim of the virus."
He added: "We do not expect to be making money right now, we are just about getting by and that is ok.....but to ask us to lose everything we have worked for seems grossly unfair. One thing is very clear: if clubs like Studio 338 are required to open at a vastly reduced capacity, with squares to separate dancers etc....that will mark the end of something very important to this city.”
Mike Grieve of SubClub, Glasgow, added: “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.”