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NTIA says revisions to UK lockdown rules unworkable even for businesses who qualify

By | Published on Thursday 25 June 2020

Night Time Industries Association

The relaxation of COVID-19 social distancing rules in England, announced by the UK government earlier this week, specifically do not apply to clubs and any venue whose primary business is live performance. So, that’s pretty much all of the live music industry. But, according to the Night Time Industries Association, even those hospitality and entertainment businesses that, in theory, will be able to re-open on 4 Jul will struggle to do so.

The trade group – whose membership includes clubs, venues, bars, restaurants and other businesses that are part of the night-time economy – says that, having digested all the nitty gritty details behind this week’s government announcement on the revised COVID rules, “the fourth of July might end up being more ‘Doomsday’ rather than the ‘Independence day’ that the Prime Minister is envisioning”.

The group’s CEO Michael Kill says government guidance on the revised COVID lockdown rules will plunge many of the businesses in the sector he represents “into more chaos and confusion”. He adds: “We are disappointed that the government doesn’t seem to have taken into account concerns shared from consulting industry associations and trade bodies”.

“The numerous concerns that will undoubtedly arise around interpretation and terminology could have been prevented if the government had taken the time to listen to and understand our sector’s unique circumstances and constraints, and tried to incorporate what we believe are sensible requests”, he goes on. “We are now grappling with operational guidance that places unworkable conditions on customer behaviour. This will make it highly challenging for the businesses to re-engage”, meaning many such businesses “will simply be unable to open and trade profitably”.

“Safety of customers and staff is, of course, paramount, but the costs of implementing some of these measures in such a short period of time is costly and also a huge challenge. The reality is, a large number of hospitality businesses are now having to reevaluate their position with a prospect of redundancies and further financial pressure on the horizon”.

As with the clubs and venues more formally excluded from the relaxation of lockdown rules, many of the hospitality and entertainment businesses that could in theory re-open but in reality cannot fear that the government’s COVID-related financial support schemes will now wind down before they are actually able to start trading again.

Which is to say, the government will use this week’s announcement to push a “things are back to normal” narrative, when – in fact – for the live sector and wider night-time economy, things are nowhere near back to normal.

“This could cripple the sector”, Kill concludes. “We are already on our knees. Left unaltered, and without further government financial support, this may well be the final straw for large numbers of the sector”.