MPs warn of “ghost towns” if the government fails to intervene in UK’s nightlife crisis

A new 'Covid-19 and UK Nightlife' report has been published, surveying 20,000 consumers, employers, employees, and freelancers in the sector

An All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of 40 MPs has warned of “ghost towns” cropping up across the UK if the government fails to intervene and support the country’s struggling nightlife sector during the coronavirus pandemic.

The findings of the APPG for the Night Time Economy have been compiled in a new report, Covid-19 and UK Nightlife, which has been published today (February 18) as the live music and events shutdown in the UK continues into its eleventh month.

The report looks at the devastating impact of the pandemic and the subsequent government support for businesses in the night-time economy, such as nightclubs, bars, pubs, live music venues, festivals and supply chain businesses. Over 20,000 people, ranging from consumers, employers, employees, and freelancers in the sector, were surveyed for Covid-19 and UK Nightlife.

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Key findings of that survey include the revelation that 85 per cent of people working in the night-time economy are considering leaving the industry, while 78 per cent of all employees in the sector had at some point been on furlough.

Businesses in the night-time economy have, on average, made 37 per cent of their total workforce redundant during the pandemic, while only 36 per cent of self-employed nightlife workers have been able to access the Self Employment Income Support Scheme.

Jeff Smith MP, Chair of the APPG and a former self-employed DJ, has warned that the prospect of many night-time economy businesses going bust would leave town and city centres across the UK looking like “ghost towns”.

“Our world-leading nightclubs, 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.

“Our findings today reveal this industry is on its knees, in desperate need of additional support from the government and a concrete plan for reopening. Without these interventions, many of these viable businesses will go under, leaving city and town centres resembling ghost towns.

42nd Street crowdfunder
Manchester’s 42nd Street nightclub (Picture: Press)

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“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 Covid-19 and UK Nightlife report recommends a number of ways forward that the government could take, such as extending the furlough scheme until businesses can operate without restrictions (as well as extending VAT and business rates relief through 2021) and producing a roadmap for reopening late-night venues based on the vaccination programme and mass testing.

The report also recommends that the eligibility for the Culture Recovery Fund is expanded, and that a sector-specific support package is made available. Government-backed insurance schemes, rent controls and a Treasury-backed scheme to boost demand once restrictions are eased have also been recommended.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said that he was pleased to  support the APPG for the Night Time Economy’s report “when it became clear our industry’s needs weren’t being heard by policy makers”.

“But it gives me no pleasure today to announce the findings of this report, which confirm the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on UK nightlife,” he continued.

“Every day I speak with the dedicated people that make up this industry – from artists to engineers, bar staff to security, and production to promoters – they have shown great resilience in the face of adversity.

“But resilience only gets you so far without the required support. We need more assistance and a detailed plan for reopening now. Otherwise, much of what defines a night out in the UK will be lost forever.”

Kill previously told NME back in November that “our biggest concern at the moment is nightclubs becoming systematically extinct by the government’s ignorance and lack of narrative around the night time economy. That becomes a cultural issue and an economic issue.”

Earlier today #WeMakeEvents launched their new campaign, ‘The Government Can’t See Us, Can You?’, in a bid to urge the UK Government to provide relief for the struggling live events sector during the coronavirus pandemic.

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