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UK live calls for exemption from new restrictions

With new tighter restrictions including lower capacity limits and a ban on alcohol sales, industry heads are arguing for an exemption

By IQ on 23 Nov 2020

British prime minister Boris Johnson has announced the new tier system

British prime minister Boris Johnson has announced the new tier system

The UK live music industry is calling for an exemption from a ban on selling alcohol without food under the tougher tier system announced today. The new rules will replace the national lockdown that expires on 2 December.

British prime minister Boris Johnson today announced that while the UK’s current lockdown will be lifted at the beginning of December, a stricter version of the three-tier system that operated in England before the lockdown began will be introduced.

Under tier 2 restrictions, which will most likely affect the majority of the UK, concert halls are permitted to open with up to 1,000 people or 50% occupancy, whichever is smaller, in addition to the existing regulation around maintaining social distancing.

Also in tier 2, and in news that will impact on all live music venues, though grassroots venues in particular, only venues that operate as a restaurant, serving substantial meals, will be permitted to serve alcohol (last orders will now be at 10 pm, with one hour to finish drinks).

Under tier 3 all hospitality will close except for delivery and takeaway, including indoor entertainment venues. The PM will announce which areas will fall into which tier later this week.

“The consumption of food and the consumption of culture could, and should, be treated equally”

“It is to be welcomed that the government’s intention is that live music can resume where it can be safely delivered,” says Mark Dayvd, CEO at Music Venue Trust.

“The government can deliver on this ambition by correctly identifying the purchase of a ticket as having equivalent intention by the consumer to the purchase of a meal. The consumption of food and the consumption of culture as the main purpose of an individual’s behaviour could, and should, be treated equally.

“Failure to reach equivalency between food and culture on this issue results in a distorted market where an individual can choose to attend a restaurant, consuming as much alcohol as they wish, prior to a gig, but upon arrival at the event cannot consume any alcohol at all.

“We believe consistency within the restrictions is the most likely route by which the public will understand and comply with them. We therefore strongly encourage the government to think again on the specifics of tier 2 restrictions in relation to ticketed cultural events.”

“By removing alcohol sales, any notion of [venues] being able to operate profitably now evaporates”

Phil Bowdery, chair of the Concert Promoters Association, says: “The prime minister’s announcement today is a huge blow for the live music industry. It’s enormously disappointing that venues which have worked hard to operate safely under the existing guidelines, are now subject to additional, arbitrary restrictions on audience numbers.

“And by removing alcohol sales on top, any notion of being able to operate profitably now evaporates. We need an urgent exemption from this new rule for ticketed events, including grassroots venues.”

Greg Parmley, chief executive of LIVE, the trade body for the live music industry says: “It is hugely disappointing that the new tier system could lead to the closure of hundreds of small music venues up and down the country.

“More than 90% of small music venues cannot serve substantial meals and therefore would be classed as being the same as a ‘wet pub’ and closed under tier 2 of the new system, despite people primarily being there to enjoy the music. We call on the government to make an exemption from those restrictions for ticketed artistic and cultural events in music venues in order to save them from closure at this crucial time.”

“The new tier system could lead to the closure of hundreds of small music venues”

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association (NITA), says: “The industry has been left angry and frustrated by the new restrictions set out by the prime minister today. This shows a complete lack of consideration and understanding of our sector.

“This will have a catastrophic impact on thousands of businesses and jobs across the sector by the end of the year. For many business owners this is beyond ignorance. This is tantamount to systematically culling our industry with intent.

“The government has simply got this wrong. It is an appalling misjudgement. Our sector has worked incredibly hard alongside government departments, to ensure that our businesses are ‘Covid Safe’, only to be hit again with unworkable restrictions that have no evidence base.

“We are being condemned to an excruciating financial hardship, until the government can rally around a workable vaccine solution. The support from furlough is welcome. However, sadly many of these businesses will not survive to retain their staff and will suffer from a continuation of current extreme problems around cash fluidity, commercial rent debt and exit strategy.

“We can’t help but feel that our industry is being sacrificed for other sectors to open during the festive period.”


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