Leading figures from within the nightlife industry have spoken of their disappointment, after Boris Johnson confirmed that England’s so-called “Freedom Day” will not take place on June 21.
The Prime Minister confirmed this evening (June 14) that the date to drop all coronavirus restrictions will be delayed until July 19 in light of the spread of new COVID variants.
It marks a significant blow for the nighttimes industry, which has spent significant time and money on ensuring their safe return, having been largely shuttered since the UK went into its first coronavirus lockdown in March 2020.
Speaking to NME, Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) CEO Michael Kill explained that it many were now facing a heightened risk of financial ruin.
“It’s a challenging time. People have spent money on re-openings and they’ve been compromised by the process, for which the government has to be held accountable,” said Kill. “Nightclubs have been closed for fifteen months and when they’ve spent all this money on reopening, things are beginning to look a little bit uncertain.
“From our perspective we’re willing it to happen, because the only way you can save jobs is to get the doors open. We know that and we’ve said that all along, the challenge we have is whether the PM feels it’s warranted to take that risk.”
It comes after the NTIA warned this morning (June 14) that any delays risk “decimating” the industry, with a flash survey revealing that one in four will not survive longer than one month without further government support.
While understanding that public health considerations were the root of the delay, Kill also urged politicians to account for the mental health of nightclub owners who have faced major financial struggles.
“At some point we have to learn how to manage it, and find some way of breaking the chain of lockdowns based on variants,” said Kill. “While I appreciate the public health position, there is the mental health impact on people who have not been able to trade and their long term position in life has been affected. Some of them will never be able to overcome the level of debts that they’re in. That will supersede mental health challenges.”
Speaking to NME anonymously, another nightclub owner said the success of the recent clubbing pilot in Liverpool was proof that they can operate safely.
“The results of the Liverpool pilot show that safe clubbing can be achieved, and we’ve done everything in our power to prepare for the recommendations that emerged from it, including sanitation and necessary ventilation. It’s just a crying shame that we’ll have to wait that little bit longer,” they said.
Kill, meanwhile, urged the government to provide appropriate financial assistance while clubs remain shuttered.
“I’ve said it before, but we need to extend the moratorium. These businesses that are acutely affected need a proportionate cash injection,” he said.
“Nightclubs have been exposed to these massive debt bills and they need help that goes some way in alleviating that.
“We’ve had confidence in the vaccination roll-out and we believe now is our time to return. It can’t keep going like this otherwise we won’t have a night-time economy to go back to.”
Similarly stark warnings also come from the Music Venue Trust, who claimed last Friday (June 11) that venues could see “mass evictions” if the re-opening delay is not met with funding and support.
Last week also saw the NTIA argue that “the industry has spent millions in preparation for June 21, and 95 per cent of businesses have already made financial commitments and logistical preparations to reopen”.
This comes with the prediction that 75 per cent of UK clubs still face eviction without an urgent solution for those who have been unable to pay rent through the pandemic.
Music venue bosses are also now calling on the government for urgent clarity and support to help them survive until July 19.