Help needed to save night-time economy from ‘extinction’

AN extension of the furlough scheme, sector-specific grants and an extension of the VAT cut are among the steps that could save the UK’s night-time economy from “extinction”, according to a new UK parliamentary report.

The document, titled ‘COVID-19 And UK Nightlife’, was compiled by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Night Time Economy and looks at the impact COVID-19 has had on the UK’s late-night venues – defined as those operating between 6pm and 6am – as well as making recommendations for how the sector can be supported as it attempts to recover from the pandemic.

It was produced following surveys with business owners as well as the wider public, canvassing over a thousand business owners, 1300 employees, 1500 freelancers and 16,100 consumers.

The surveys found that 63% of UK nightclubs had been forced to make redundancies, with 48% of bars, 33% of pubs and 50% of live music venues also having reduced staff numbers.

On average, nightclubs had made more than half (51%) of their workforce redundant, with bars (32% of total workforce), pubs (26%) and live music venues (36%) “less catastrophic but nonetheless severe”.

Fully 85% of employees surveyed said they were considering leaving the sector to find employment in other industries.

Recommendations in the report included the extension of the UK-wide Job Retention (furlough) Scheme for the night-time sector “until it can reopen at full capacity”; new sector-specific grant schemes adapted to the size and operating costs of different businesses; more rent support for businesses; and an extension of the current VAT deferral and lower 5% VAT rate.

The report also recommended government campaigns for consumers and hospitality workers to reassure them of the sector’s safety and encourage employees to stay in the industry.

It concluded that, without government support, nightlife businesses across the UK could face “extinction”.

In the foreword Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said:

“Our sector holds an immense wealth of talent from artists to engineers, bar staff to security, and production to promoters.

“These skilled and hard-working individuals underpin the strength of our sector; while we have faced unparalleled hardship, we have also shown great resilience. We have used this strength and creativity to adapt, to ‘repurpose’, and to survive in the limited way that we can.

“As a sector, we are keen to do more, to actively support the fight against COVID-19, and to uplift the public with our talent and our spaces. Without the right support, however, our commitment can only get us so far.

“We must now work to ensure that we protect this important industry and offer the right measures, resources, and assurances so that the sector can safely rebuild and help drive the UK’s economic recovery in the post-pandemic world.”