Venues excluded from easing of lockdown, UK Music calls for timetable on live sector's return

Venues excluded from easing of lockdown, UK Music calls for timetable on live sector's return

The government has announced an easing of the lockdown measures from next month. But there is no timetable for the return of live music.

From July 4, a “one metre-plus” rule will be introduced, although Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that people should remain two metres apart where possible.

The relaxing of lockdown measures will allow pubs, restaurants, cinemas, galleries, hotels and hairdressers to reopen. The full list also includes everything from funfairs to model villages, but music venues will not be able to return as normal.

There is a provision for theatres and concert halls to reopen on July 4, but live performance will not be permitted because of issues around social distancing and risks associated with singing. Such venues could only show recorded performances, which could potentially open up livestream opportunities to a reduced capacity audience. 

UK Music acting CEO Tom Kiehl said: “While it’s welcome news that social guidelines are being eased for other sectors, many parts of the music industry are still urgently awaiting clarity from the government. Thousands of people who work in the music industry, which generates £5.2 billion a year for the UK economy, are struggling to survive and many businesses will go to the wall unless we get the vital support needed to get the music business back on its feet. 

“There is a real risk that music will be left swinging in the wind unless the government moves quickly to agree a detailed plan with the sector to reopen. We cannot afford for music which is so culturally, socially and economically important to be treated like some kind of forgotten relative while so many other sectors are being given a blueprint for them to emerge from lockdown.”

There is a real risk that music will be left swinging in the wind

Tom Kiehl

Kiehl called for VAT relief on future ticket sales, which could offer a £300m lifeline over 12 months.

“July 4 is now in people’s calendars as the day when many other businesses will re-open,” said Kiehl. “The music industry needs a clear timetable and a target date for when all elements of the sector can join the legions of businesses now planning for the future and looking forward to getting back to trading.  

“If the UK government does not provide swift and well-targeted support to the music sector, we will see venues close for good, thousands of job losses, as well as the loss of irreplaceable musical talent and technical skills - even if the industry is able to return to economic viability.

“The absence of live music has left a huge hole in the lives of millions of music lovers and temporarily deprived tens of thousands of people of the livelihoods.  We need to move towards a place where we can once again let the music play.” 

Close proximity spaces such as nightclubs and gyms will not be allowed to reopen at all. Conference centres, bowling alleys and swimming pools will also remain closed.

Live promoters have already announced plans for drive-in shows because of the ongoing restrictions on live music.

Pubs and bars will need to reopen with a table service and owners will be asked to keep contact details of customers to help with contact tracing.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association (NITA), said: "Today’s announcements are to be welcomed as they will help many businesses start to recover from lockdown. But the 10-day build-up period to July 4 will be costly and hard to meet for many businesses and we need to see the details of the guidance and protocols associated with today’s news. And it’s important to remember that whilst this is the green light for some venues to re-open, many of them will struggle to be profitable even with the social distancing mandate reduced to one metre.

“But for many of our members, including nightclubs, casinos and some pubs, restaurants and bars that can’t meet the one-metre social distancing obligations, the nightmare of enforced closure goes on. This reinforces our urgent call for the government to commit to further immediate financial support for our sector. These excluded venues play a vital part in the cultural and civic life of our communities the length and breadth of the country. Businesses operating in the night-time economy have needs distinct from those operating in more general hospitality and it would be unforgivable if those needs are not taken into account by government." 

The Music Venue Trust found that only 13% of its venues could potentially operate under a two-metre social distancing system.

The two-metre rule remains in place in Scotland and Wales, though music retail has returned in Wales.

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