Friday 14 August 2020 11:15 am

Coronavirus: Casinos, theatres and bowling alleys welcome lockdown easing

The UK’s leisure industry got a much-needed boost this morning after the government announced a further easing of lockdown measures.

Theatres, music venues and casinos are among the sites that will be allowed to reopen from tomorrow as the final parts of the Covid-19 shutdown are lifted.

Sports arenas, bowling alleys, skating rinks and soft play centres have also been given the green light, while beauty salons will be able to offer all “close-contact services”.

The final stages of the lockdown easing were due to take place two weeks ago, but the government put the plans on hold due to rising concerns about a spike in coronavirus infections.

But ministers said the situation had now “levelled off” and further easing could go ahead.

Read more: PM Johnson toughens enforcement measures ahead of lockdown easing

‘Welcome step’

The announcement was welcomed by the UK’s leisure sector, though businesses warned their industries were “not out of the woods yet”.

“This is another welcome step returning to some sort of normality,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality.

“Lots of businesses like soft play and bowling alleys were feeling overlooked during this crisis. It’s great to see they can now begin to get up and running. It will help keep more businesses alive and valuable jobs open.”

She added: “Opening up indoor performances is great news for theatres and music venues and the same goes for wedding receptions. Even in reduced numbers, permitting couples to push ahead with weddings that will have taken no small amount of planning is very positive news.”

‘Lamentable delay’

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which represents casinos across the UK, said the announcement was a “welcome relief”, but took aim at the government’s “last-minute U-turn” and complained of a “lamentable” and “pointless” two-week delay.

“This belated good news will come as a welcome relief to the 12,000 people employed in the casino sector in England,” said BGC chief executive Michael Dugher.

“We regret that it has taken so long for staff to return to work — long after all manner of venues and activities, that don’t have anything like the anti-Covid measures you will see in any casino, were reopened.”

The Hippodrome Casino Opens After Extensive Renovation
Casinos blasted a “pointless” two-week delay to reopenings (Getty Images)

Tom Kiehl, acting chief executive of UK Music, said the announcement was a “symbolic moment” but warned the music industry still faced an “extraordinarily difficult future”.

“Further easing of lockdown for live performance is a symbolic moment, yet it remains extraordinarily difficult to resume events and gigs in an economically viable way,” he said.

“The government must ensure support measures for all aspects of the sector – including venues, festivals, musicians, performers and crew – are in place while many individuals and businesses in the sector still cannot get back to work.”

Hollywood Bowl, which operates 60 bowling alleys across the UK, described the move as a “great relief”.

“We’ve been ready to reopen in the fully government approved Covid-secure way for many weeks and our trained teams are eager to get back to work,” said chief executive Stephen Burns.

“We are all ready and very excited to welcome our customers back to once again enjoy our unique offering of inclusive family fun.”

Read more: UK nightclubs make reopening plea ahead of ‘make or break’ period

Nightclub fears

However, the sector raised concerns about the continued closure of nightclubs and called for urgent clarity over the plan for kickstarting the UK clubbing season.

“Clubs all around the country are now at a very real risk of going out of business,” said UK Hospitality boss Nicholls. “We need a plan for their reopening immediately.”

The trade body yesterday wrote to culture secretary Oliver Dowden calling for a timeline for reopening and warning the government may need to provide funding to prevent club closures and job losses.

Peter Marks, chief executive of nightclub owner The Deltic Group, warned the sector was approaching a “potentially make or break” period, with the clubbing season usually picking up in September.