Warning issued that UK nightlife businesses face ‘extinction’ in aftermath of pandemic

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (‘APPG’) for the Night Time Economy has published a report entitled ‘COVID-19 and UK Nightlife’ (that you can download below).

The report paints a bleak future for nightlife businesses. Its Executive Summary reads as follows:

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on a sector that the Night Time Industries Association estimate contributes £66 billion per year to the UK economy, accounting for 1.3 million jobs and 8% of the UK’s total workforce. Along with the nightclubs, pubs, bars, and live music venues that define British nightlife and usually drive so much economic activity, the night time economy creates vast and co-dependent supply chains of freelancers, sole traders and suppliers, and supports thousands of auxiliary businesses. Yet the sector’s value to this country is far more than that which can be measured in GDP – music venues, nightclubs, bars, and pubs are areas for social as well as economic activity, and for so many people they are places that evoke strong memories of joy and a sense of community.

This inquiry has sought to examine the consequences of the absence of night time economy spaces, marketplaces, social hubs and cultural institutions on the people who make up this sector, on those who enjoy its custom, and on society more widely. The evidence we received revealed a picture of an industry on its knees, in need of urgent additional attention and support from Government if it is to avoid irreversible losses.

Amongst the key findings of the APPG:

  • Without urgent government support, nightlife businesses face ‘extinction’ that will see urban centres become ‘ghost towns’ and hobble wider economic recovery.
  • 85% of people working in the sector are considering leaving the industry.
  • 78% of all employees in the sector had at some point been on furlough.
  • Businesses in the night time economy had on average made 37% of their total workforce redundant – nightclubs: 51%; bars: 32%; pubs: 26%; live music venues: 36%; supply chain businesses: 40%.
  • In the second half of 2020, businesses in the night time economy traded at an average of 28% of their annualised pre-Covid turnover – nightclubs: 20%; bars: 32%; pubs: 43%; live music venues: 28%; supply chain businesses: 19%.
  • Only 36% of self-employed nightlife workers have been able to claim the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

The APPG learned just what these figures meant in personal terms, receiving countless pieces of moving testimony – much of which we have reproduced in full. Many were thankful for some elements of Government support – most commonly, the furlough scheme – but on the balance of evidence, the inquiry found the Government’s support for the night time economy has been insufficient. The Prime Minister and Chancellor now need to take a series of measures if the sector is to have a chance of recovering to its pre-pandemic strength, thereby playing an integral role in our wider economic recovery. These measures include:

  • Extending the furlough scheme until businesses can operate without restrictions, and extending VAT and business rates relief through 2021.
  • Producing a roadmap for reopening late night venues based on the vaccination programme and mass testing.
  • Expanding eligibility for the Culture Recovery Fund and proving a sector-specific support package for the sector.
  • Providing a government-backed insurance scheme and a solution to spiralling commercial rent debt.
  • Providing a Treasury-backed campaign to drive consumer demand in the sector when safe to do so.

Commenting on the report, Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, has been quoted as saying:

“We are pleased to support the APPG for the Night Time Economy 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.

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.”

Download article PDF: APPG-NTE-Covid-19-and-UK-Nightlife