Businesses in the UK’s night-time economy have slammed the Prime Minister’s announcement of a 10pm curfew on venues for up to six months as “devastating”, and warned that it will lead to wide-scale business collapse and unemployment.
Boris Johnson today announced a 10pm curfew on all hospitality and leisure venues in England in a bid to tackle the rapid rise of coronavirus infections across the UK.
The PM told the Commons that “unless we palpably make progress we should assume that the restrictions I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months”.
“A stitch in time saves nine,” he added.
‘Shocked and disappointed’
The new restrictions will apply to businesses across the night-time economy, including pubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, night clubs and casinos.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), told City A.M: “This announcement of a 10pm curfew for hospitality is yet another devastating blow to the already beleaguered night-time economy, struggling to survive and in desperate need of sector-specific financial support from the government.”
The night-time economy is the UK’s fifth-biggest industry, accounting for at least eight per cent of the UK’s employment and annual revenues of £66bn, according to data from the NTIA.
But Kill said the fresh curfew “will lead to the demise of many of our most beloved cultural and entertainment venues”.
“Businesses in the night-time economy are both shocked and disappointed by the government’s continued targeting of restrictions on late-night venues and bars, partially open at a fraction of their capacity, when they have admitted that the majority of transmission takes place in households,” he added.
“We foresee a surge of unregulated events and house parties which are the real hotbeds of infection, attended by frustrated young people denied access to safe and legitimate night-time hospitality venues.”
Months of planning ‘up in the air’
Live performance venues have already suffered after being forced to shutter for months over concerns that instruments, singing and loud music might exacerbate the spread of infection, while pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen.
Colin Savage, co-owner of London’s Phoenix Arts Club in the West End, told City A.M. late night curfews will have a monumental effect on England’s hospitality venues while doing do little to stem the spread of infection.
“Once again months of ticketing, marketing and planning for the live performance sector has been thrown up in the air within 24 hours, when it seems the government have misjudged the target,” he said.
“Late night curfews over the last few months in Bolton haven’t reduced the rate of infection. And, after many years of being told by licensing that customers need to safely disperse over time [to] avoiding squeezes on public transport and crowded, busy streets, it does seem a little odd that the government thinks that a 10pm cliff edge for the hospitality industry will benefit public health.
“It is now time for the furlough scheme for this sector to be extended for the next six months. ”
Plans ‘in disarray’
Johnson will address the nation this evening to introduce a package of measures to curb the spread of the virus, after the UK’s top scientists yesterday warned Britain could see 50,000 new infections a day by mid-October without urgent action.
The PM will tell people to work from home where possible, and will introduce a £200 on-the-spot fine for those who fail to comply with mandatory face mask rules.
Johnson said the UK now stands at a “perilous turning point”, and warned that the police will now have the “option to draw on military support where required”.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which represents more than 5.8m small businesses in the UK, called for more business support alongside the new measures.
FSB chairman Mike Cherry said: “Many businesses — particularly those at the heart of our night-time economy and events industries — are now seriously fearing for their futures. Having lost the summer, a lot of them would’ve been pinning their hopes to increased trade in the run-up to Christmas. Their plans are now in disarray.”
“Policymakers now urgently need to map out the support measures that will follow-on from the job retention scheme, cash grants announced earlier this month and emergency finance initiatives.”