The UK’s nightlife scene is at risk of extinction without urgent financial support, the government has been warned.
A group of 40 cross-party MPs today urged the prime minister and chancellor Rishi Sunak to bring forward a sector-specific grant package and lay out a detailed roadmap for reopening venues to avoid “irreversible losses” for businesses.
They added that a collapse of nightclubs and bars would create “ghost towns” across the country that would hinder the wider economic recovery.
Boris Johnson is expected to lay out a plan for easing lockdown on 22 February, including target dates for reopening different parts of the economy.
The UK’s night-time economy has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with many venues forced to remain shuttered since the first lockdown in March last year.
Those that could reopen have also faced a number of restrictions, including curfews, the rule of six, enforced table service and the requirement for substantial meals with alcohol.
A report published today by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Night Time Economy highlighted the impact of the measures, showing that on average businesses in the sector had made 37 per cent of employees redundant.
In the second half of the year, companies were trading at an average of just 28 per cent of their pre-Covid annual turnover.
Jeff Smith, chair of the APPG and a former DJ, warned the closure of venues risked leaving UK town and city centres looking like “ghost towns”.
“Our world-leading night clubs, pubs, bars, and live music venues are cornerstones of our communities. They drive so much economic activity both locally and nationally, and bring hope, joy and entertainment to millions across the UK,” he said.
“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 calls were echoed by UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, who urged Boris Johnson to include live music in his roadmap for ending lockdown.
“We are not asking to reopen a moment before it is safe to do so, but if our sector is to survive through this pandemic then we require urgent clarity about the months ahead and some indication of when live music will be able to return,” he said.
The industry has called for nightlife venues and live events to form a key part of government plans to use mass rapid Covid testing to help ease restrictions.