London venue Union Chapel faces “extremely tough future” due to rise in Omicron

Almost every event the venue was hosting in January has now been cancelled

Union Chapel has warned of an “extremely tough future” with almost every event set to take place in the London venue this January now cancelled, thanks to the rise of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Recently the likes of Damon Albarn and Celeste have performed at the Grade 1 listed venue, which also operates as a charity helping people experiencing homelessness and crisis.

But following the rise of the Omicron variant of COVID, the venue has had almost all of its January shows either cancelled or rescheduled and half of the events scheduled to take place in February are no longer going ahead. The handful of events that are going ahead this month are seeing up to 50 per cent of audiences not turning up.

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“This year was going to be a vital year for our recovery, after the enormously challenging year we had in 2020,” said Michael Chandler, CEO of Union Chapel Project. “After a brief period of stability, the last few weeks have thrown us and the live music sector back into financial crisis, and there is now huge concern for the months to come. This has a major impact on us as a charity and our vital work for the community, now and into the future.”

The demand for Union Chapel’s support services have increased by 66 per cent since the pandemic started, but the charity is currently operating on a third of their usual income.

Due to a lack of Government support, Union Chapel has re-launched their Crowdfunder to raise funds to continue their work.

A new study by the Music Venue Trust has found a “catastrophic” drop in attendance as well as advance ticket sales and spend per head in grassroots music venues since the Government announced the implementation of the Plan B restrictions last Wednesday, meaning that the entire sector is once again “at risk of permanent closure” without “immediate” government support.

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Following a vote in parliament, people will need to show proof they’re fully vaccinated, or provide a negative test when visiting clubs, indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people.

Speaking to NME, MVT CEO Mark Davyd said the current crisis threw venues back to “exactly where we were in March 2020“, arguing that once again “confusing government messaging had created a ‘stealth lockdown’ with venues apparently able to open but in reality haemorrhaging money at a rate that will inevitably result in permanent closures unless the government acts quickly to prevent it.”

“The Christmas period is really important for building up cash reserves so that we’re able to survive Q1 of 2022,” explained Night Time Industry Association boss Michael Kill. “Without this, the result is a threat to the very survival of thousands of businesses and jobs. This downturn in trade around the narrative from government around socialising and the Omicron variant has obviously created some uncertainty and hit the confidence of the customer.”

In order to help nightlife survive, Kill and the NTIA are calling for a VAT for the sector at 12.5 per cent, additional grants unique to hospitality, and for the government to reinstate furlough for the first quarter of 2022.

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