Cities could become ghost towns if bars are not given financial help

Our nightlife needs a lifeline: City centres could become ghost towns if bars, clubs and music venues are not given financial help, MPs warn

  • A group of 40 MPs told Rishi Sunak to give nightlife immediate financial support
  • All-party Parliamentary Group warned there would be ‘ghost towns’ otherwise
  • The MPs looked at the impact of the pandemic on nightclubs, bars and pubs
  • They found 85 per cent of those working in nightlife are considering leaving 

Nightlife businesses need immediate financial support and a detailed plan for reopening or face ‘extinction’, a group of 40 MPs has told Rishi Sunak.

The All-party Parliamentary Group said failure to provide lucrative grants could create ‘ghost towns’ across the country and hinder the wider economic recovery.

The MPs looked at the impact of the pandemic on nightclubs, bars, pubs, live music venues, festivals and supply chain businesses in the night-time economy.

The All-party Parliamentary Group said failure to provide lucrative grants could create ‘ghost towns’ across the country and hinder the wider economic recovery. Pictured, people out in London on September 12 last year

They conducted a survey that found 85 per cent of those working in nightlife are considering leaving the industry and 78 per cent had at some point been on furlough.

Businesses in the sector had on average made 37 per cent of their total workforce redundant. In the second half of last year, businesses in the night-time economy traded at an average of 28 per cent of their pre-Covid turnover.

Jeff Smith, chairman of the group of MPs and a former DJ, said: ‘Our findings reveal this industry is on its knees, in desperate need of additional support from the Government and a concrete plan for reopening.

Businesses in the sector had on average made 37 per cent of their total workforce redundant. Pictured, revellers in Liverpool city centre in December last year

‘Without these interventions, many of these viable businesses will go under, leaving city and town centres resembling ghost towns. If the Government is serious about its “levelling up” agenda it must act now to save this sector and avoid untold damage to the social fabric of this country.’

The MPs found economic support for the sector so far had been ‘insufficient’.

Outside of periods of forced closure, night time economy businesses have seen numerous and changing restrictions on their ability to trade, including curfews, social distancing measures like the ‘rule of six’, and requirements for a ‘substantial meal’ with alcohol.

Businesses have faced significant costs and investments in adapting to new conditions, and many, including a majority of nightclubs, have been unable to trade at all.

Adrian Swain, a Regional Director for the Deltic Group, poses for a photograph in the Birmingham PRYZM nightclub in Birmingham

The MPs demanded an extension to the furlough scheme until businesses can operate without restrictions, and extending VAT and business rates relief through 2021.

They called for a roadmap for reopening late night venues based on the vaccination programme and mass testing.

The MPs suggested a new government-backed insurance scheme and solutions to spiralling commercial rent arrears, and the appointment of a UK Government Night Time Economy advisor.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said: ‘This report confirms the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on UK nightlife.

‘Every day I speak with the dedicated people that make up this industry – from artists to engineers, bar staff to security, and production to promoters – they have shown great resilience in the face of adversity.

‘But resilience only gets you so far without the required support. We need more assistance and a detailed plan for reopening now. Otherwise, much of what defines a night out in the UK will be lost forever.’ 

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