Nightclubs are urgently calling for Government intervention to a worsening shortage of bouncers which industry bosses say could become a “threat to public safety”.
The Night Time Industry Association (NTIA) said last month that one in five night-life and hospitality businesses closed or reduced operating hours due to a shortage of security staff.
However, it said the situation has “deteriorated further” as demand continues to soar from customers keen to enjoy a night out following the easing of lockdown measures.
Security worker numbers have become depleted as many left the industry while clubs were closed throughout the pandemic for jobs with preferable hours, while exiting EU workers also added to the problem.
Bosses at nightclub operator Rekom UK and bar chain Revolution have also said that the shortage is a pressing concern.
Peter Marks, chief executive of 42-site business Rekom UK, which runs brands including Pryzm and Atik, said the problem had been “building slowly but has become so much worse since the pandemic”.
He said: “It’s been a real struggle at times but we’ve fortunately often been able to push back with security agencies to find the teams we need just in time.
“But even then, on one or two occasions we’ve had to limit numbers into venues because of security levels.
“We are in a particularly strong position though as we can agree to take on staff in larger numbers – this is particularly hitting independent clubs hard.”
Marks added that the shortage has resulted in increasing fees for staff, as firms deal with a litany of other cost rises such as higher energy bills and rebounding VAT levels.
“I think the cost has gone up by around 15 per cent,” he said.
“But that is slightly different everywhere. In somewhere like Dartford where we are the one club, it might not be that much, but in big cities like Nottingham it becomes very competitive trying to secure those staff.”
Marks said the problem came amid “roaring trade” as people return to clubs for the first time since before the pandemic.
The NTIA stressed that security staff in venues are “fundamental to public safety” as it called for Government action.
Michael Kill, chief executive officer of the trade body, said: “If shortages continue to get worse, there is a very real chance it could become a threat to public safety.
“Like in other sectors currently seeing shortages, this is a long-term issue and decline in security resources can be tracked back at least three years, but this has been hugely exacerbated by the pandemic with many licensed staff leaving the sector when the bars and clubs closed and now choosing not to return.
Brexit hasn’t helped either, but it is far from the only factor at play here.
“There are steps the Government can take to ease the problem, whether that be funding training initiatives, streamlining new training requirements, or tackling shortages through legislation – and I would also like to see them revisit the issue of temporary visas to assuage the crisis.”
Rob Pitcher, chief executive of Revolution Bars, also said that the group has seen a “particular issue” hiring security staff for venues.