NTIA: a third of UK venues threatened with closure within a month with no government support

"It really is a chilling prospect to see so many venues in our sector left to bleed"

A third of the UK’s nightlife businesses fear closure within a month without support from the government, a new survey warns.

The new report, from the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), comes from a survey of 500 nightclubs, bars, pubs and hospitality venues, and warns of a ‘Cataclysmic Christmas’, with one in five nightlife businesses also worried that they could lose their entire workforce.

The report comes as up to 40 per cent of music fans in the UK were revealed to have not turned up to gigs recently due to a rise in COVID cases, while one in five ticketholders didn’t turn up to gigs in 2021.

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Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions for the country due to a rise in cases of the Omicron variant, in measures dubbed ‘Plan B’.

The NTIA’s survey, which was conducted at the weekend (December 18-19), shows that nighttime venues have lost on average £46,000 each in lost sales over the festive period so far due to gig cancellations, while a 40 per cent drop in attendance has been reported at businesses requiring COVID certificates for entry.

“It really is a chilling prospect to see so many venues in our sector left to bleed, with a lockdown in everything but name and absolutely no recognition of this from the Government,” NTIA boss Michael Kill said in a statement. “These venues have faced over twenty months of financial hardship and the Christmas trade period was integral to keeping those surviving businesses afloat in the upcoming year.”

Kill added: “If further restrictions are to be implemented, the Chancellor must step in and recognise the huge damage that waves of cancellations, driven by mixed Government messaging, resource intensive Covid protocols and costly restrictions actually have.

“The Government have had twenty months to learn how our sector operates; it is beggars belief we stand here again, as if back in March 2020, imploring the Government to listen to us, to understand how businesses work and to realise that inaction is a death sentence for our industry. It really is a Cataclysmic Christmas.”

COVID
Crowd at a concert in London in September 2021. Credit: Christie Goodwin/Redferns.

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“Whilst shocking and upsetting, these latest stats don’t come as much surprise,” Sacha Lord, Night Time Economy Advisor for Greater Manchester, added. “The industry have been unanimously calling on the Chancellor for both support and leadership. To date, our calls have fallen on deaf ears and for some, it is already too late. If the UK’s fifth biggest industry has any hope of survival, he must come forward, urgently.”

Speaking to NME last week, Beverley Whitrick, Strategic Director of Music Venue Trust, discussed how venues were “on the brink of collapse” due to new COVID rules and the rise of the Omicron variant, and that “immediate” action must be taken by the government.

“This is the busiest time of the year for grassroots music venues, representing more than 20 per cent of their annual income being raised during the party season,” she said.

“Rapid declines in attendance at this time of year represent an exponential threat to the whole sector, and losses of this magnitude cannot be sustained without throwing hundreds of music venues into crisis mode and at risk of permanent closure. A ‘no show’ isn’t just lost ticket income, it’s lost bar take and excess staff costs.”

MVT CEO Mark Davyd added that 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.”

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