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UK club owner to legally challenge gov’s 10pm curfew

Jeremy Joseph, the owner of London nightclub G-A-Y, has hired leading barristers from Kings Chambers and Simpson Miller Solicitors to challenge the government’s decision to implement a national curfew of 10 pm on hospitality premises.

The 10 pm curfew came into effect on 24 September and has reportedly caused a “catastrophic” drop in trade for businesses, believed to be solely due to the implementation of the new restrictions, according to a recent survey.

The pre-action protocol for judicial review saw the legal team, which is supported by G-A-Y’s longstanding legal and business affairs advisor and Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), write to the secretary of state, Matt Hancock at the department of health and social care with a formal challenge to the health protection which was amended to include the new curfew.

“The 10 pm curfew, which has now been in place for the last two weeks and has been detrimental to the hospitality sector including G-A-Y, makes absolutely no sense,” says Joseph.

“It does the opposite of protecting people by pushing them onto the street at the same time. They are going from being safe inside venues with staggered closing times to unsafe on overcrowded streets and overloaded public transport.

“This government has failed to show why the 10 pm curfew was put in place and has published no scientific evidence to substantiate its implementation.

“This gov has failed to show why the curfew was put in place and has published no scientific evidence to substantiate its implementation”

“It seems to direct the blame for this action on the sector, consistently treating the night-time economy as a scapegoat when, in fact, we have years of operational experience of keeping customers safe, and have spent substantial time and effort making sure our venues are Covid secure.

“Enough is Enough. Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson have to be made accountable and today we have instructed our legal team with the support of the NTIA to serve the government with a pre-action protocol for judicial review to challenge the decision to implement the national curfew of 10 pm on the hospitality sector.”

Dan Rosenberg, partner at Simpson Miller, said: “Our clients are well aware of the need to prioritise the health of the public and are supportive of any measures that help control the virus. Ultimately, their businesses in the long term depend upon the virus being brought under control.”

“However, while they have been supportive of other decisions made by government, including in relation to social distancing and other measures to protect the safety of their patrons, they fail to see the logic behind the arbitrary decision for all venues to close at 10 pm.”

The new restrictions affect businesses selling food or drink (including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants) – along with social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls.

Concert venues and theatres are permitted to stay open past the 10 pm curfew, though only if the performance has already started.

In addition, the new £10,000 fines for those who breach social distancing legislation will be extended from individuals to businesses.

 


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UK’s new job scheme: Live still faces ‘grim future’

The UK’s live industry has reacted to the government’s new Jobs Support Scheme and Winter Economy Plan, unveiled earlier today by chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The emergency scheme will see the government and firms top up workers’ wages, covering up to two-thirds of their hours for the next six months, after the furlough scheme ends on 31 October. This means employers will have to pay 55% of an employee’s pay and the government will cover 22%.

As part of the Winter Economy Plan, the temporary reduction of VAT rates from 20% to 5% for the hospitality sector will remain in place until 31 March 2021, rather than 13 January.

The announcements have garnered lukewarm reactions from some of the industry’s key figures – many of which have emphasised that the new scheme will only go part way to sustaining the sector.

“We welcome this economy-wide intervention from the chancellor. However, it still leaves many hundreds of thousands of workers in events, arts and cultural parts of the economy with a grim future,” says Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee chair Julian Knight.

“The truth is, three times as many people in these sectors are currently on furlough than the national average, which suggests that the Job Support Scheme may not be able to stop unprecedented redundancies and many organisations from facing extinction.”

“It still leaves many hundreds of thousands of workers in cultural parts of the economy with a grim future”

Earlier today, the chair of the DCMS Committee today made recommendations to Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, calling for immediate and robust action by the government to prevent culture sector from collapse.

Elsewhere, Michael Kill, CEO at Night Time Industries Association, says he’s grateful and relieved that the News Jobs Support Scheme is throwing a “much-needed lifeline to hundreds of thousands of workers in the night-time economy,” but stresses that more support will be needed.

“We are seeking more clarity about what this announcement means for the majority of businesses in the night-time economy who do not know when, or if, they will be able to reopen their doors. These businesses cannot be allowed to collapse as the diversity and creativity of the UK’s night-time economy will die with them.

“We are also very concerned that the extension of business support loans will result in more painful debt for those already overburdened financially, many of whom are languishing in up to three-quarters of commercial rent debt with no certainty on when this will be due.

“More support will be needed. The majority of our sector is still unable to even open and trade. Night-time economy businesses have been unfairly targeted by the new 10 pm curfew, which we believe has no scientific basis and will prevent businesses from rebuilding the necessary revenue to stay afloat. The government must rethink this curfew and consider further sector-specific support for our industry if it wants to save Britain’s most loved cultural institutions.”

“No part of the live music industry is in a position to pay 55% of its employees’ salaries”

Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, says: “The measures announced today do not address the need for the UK government to support different sectors of our society which are subject to different restrictions because of its own actions to control the virus. This is a very specific challenge to the live music industry, which is not permitted to trade by government restrictions but has not seen any sector support directly offered in this financial intervention.”

“No part of the live music industry is in a position to pay 55% of its employees’ salaries in order to access the government support which is entirely conditional on doing that,” he adds.

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), has also weighed in, saying: “While the extension to the VAT cut is welcome, these measures are not even a band-aid for a sector that remains severely wounded.

“Festivals support 85,000 jobs in the UK and our most recent member surveys suggest redundancies of at least 50.5% across the sector, some of which have unfortunately already taken place.

“With the sector still not generating any income at all this year, many employers will simply not be in a position to pay 55% of their employees’ salaries to access the support offered by the government’s new job support scheme.

“This remains a broad-brush approach, and we urgently need targeted support.

“We are awaiting the outcome of Cultural Recovery Fund applications on 5th October and this will determine if the independent festival sector will in fact receive the support that it urgently requires.”

News of the Jobs Support Scheme follows the government’s previous announcement of a new 10 pm curfew, as part of a slate of new restrictions intended to combat a second wave of Covid-19.

Concert venues and theatres will be allowed to stay open past a new 10 pm curfew, though only if the performance has already started.

 


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NTIA publishes return-to-live roadmap

Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) and operators from the UK’s night-time industry have presented the government with a science-backed reopening plan in an attempt to stop the sector from collapsing.

Festival Republic and Music Venue Trust are among the organisations that have commissioned the report, supported by the Institute of Occupational Medicine, which examines the science behind Covid-19 and how to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Key findings from the report include: the core market for clubs and venues are amongst the lowest at risk in the hospitality sector and that that overall capacity restrictions to 75% of legal building occupancy based on regulations will ensure distancing is possible throughout the venue.

Now, the night-time industry is using the report to urge the government to provide a clear reopening plan for music venues, nightclubs, late-night bars and events spaces, as well as more financial support after the furlough scheme ends.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, says: “We have now reached a critical point. In the absence of a clear reopening strategy from government, or the promise of financial support, huge numbers of businesses within our industry are facing financial collapse and thousands of job losses.

“We implore the government to give us the opportunity to reopen in a safe, risk-assessed way”

“The report we have launched today clearly shows that there is a case for the safe reopening of night-time leisure venues, including nightclubs, late-night bars, live music venues and event spaces. Whilst many of these are large capacity venues, it is important to note that they already have many of the safety protocols in place to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

“We implore the government to give us the opportunity to reopen in a safe, risk-assessed way. Doing so will protect thousands of jobs, contribute to the struggling UK economy and ensure our towns and cities remain economically healthy and culturally vibrant.”

New research from the NTIA shows that almost 60% of night-time venues will not survive longer than two months without further government support, and more than 70% of night-time operators will be making more than half their workforce redundant from September, and 83% of night-time sector businesses will be making people redundant following the end of the Covid Job Retention Scheme.

However, the new report and roadmap highlight the plausibility of a safe return to night-time establishments. It says the safe operation of these venues can be assured by implementing a range of mitigating measures, many of which are already in place such as ID scans upon entry, contactless payment and sophisticated ventilation systems.

Socially distanced live indoor performances were permitted to resume in England from 15 August, but a number of industry bodies expressed scepticism about the economic viability of live music returning.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Let us dance, says UK electronic music sector

Some of the most prominent artists from the UK’s dance music sector have joined forces with festivals, nightclubs and industry figures to issue an urgent plea for support from the government.

The #LetUsDance campaign urges the government to recognise dance music clubs and events as an important part of the nation’s art and culture in parity with the wider live music sector, to ensure equal access to support.

The campaign also encourages fans, artists and industry professionals to post a photo from a recent club night or dance festival, along with the #LetUsDance hashtag, with a note supporting its place within arts and culture. Supporters can also send a letter to their local MP to emphasise the importance of the sector.

The call for support comes following the live music industry’s #LetTheMusicPlay campaign, which preceded the announcement of a £1.57 billion support package for Britain’s arts and culture sector.

However, the government narrative to-date on the allocation of this support has been unclear, and appears not to include nightclubs, dance music events and festivals.

The Night Time Industries Association states it is “keen to gain assurances from government that dance music venues and nightclubs will be eligible to apply for the funding”, fearing it may “be reserved purely for venues like the Royal Albert Hall and the West End”.

“We call on the government to recognise this sector as a significant part of the nation’s art and culture, and ensure fair and equal access to the support offered to the wider live music sector”

The campaign is supported by artists including Fatboy Slim, Massive Attack, Thom Yorke, Simone Butler of Primal Scream, Caribou, Four Tet, Norman Jay OBE, Daniel Avery, Charlotte de Witte, Pete Tong and Andy C.

“Nightclubs and festivals are the beating heart of the UK dance scene; providing collective joy to millions of fans each year, providing employment and incomes for an interdependent network of hundreds of thousands of people, while contributing hundreds of millions to the economy,” says Greg Marshall, general manager of the Association for Electronic Music (Afem).

“We call on the government to recognise this sector as a significant part of the nation’s art and culture, and ensure fair and equal access to the support offered to the wider live music sector.”

Sacha Lord, founder of the Warehouse Project club nights and nightlife advisor for Greater Manchester says he is “astounded and confused” that the government’s arts rescue package does not include the UK dance music industry.

“There has always been an elitist snobbery towards electronic and dance music, however, I would argue that this sector reaches more people in terms of culture, as some of our theatres do,” says Lord.

“I call out the government, not only to recognise this part of the industry, but also put in place guidance and support to protect our venues, festivals, artists, freelancers, and supply chain. That is why today, I’m fully backing the #LetUsDance Campaign.”

There are over 1,600 nightclubs across the UK, which play a significant role in supporting the wider night-time economy that generates £66bn in revenue per year (6% of the UK’s total).

 


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Eventbrite’s ‘A New Dawn’ looks at the future of UK nightlife

Wednesday night (6 September) saw the launch of a new documentary by Eventbrite, A New Dawn: Meet the Future of UK Nightlife, with which the ticketing/technology company aims to shine a light on the evolution of, and challenges faced by, contemporary nightlife in Britain.

The screening in London was followed by panel session, chaired by journalist/DJ Kate Hutchison, featuring four important figures from the UK’s night-time industries: Alan D. Miller, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association; Johnno Burgess of party/festival brands Bugged Out, Mighty Hoopla and Field Day; Time Out’s music and nightlife editor, Oliver Keens; and Hannah Ross of Manchester DIY collective Partisan.

“What was really great about the film was that it really shows that things aren’t appalling,” said Keens. “There’s still fun to be had in the big cities in the UK and I’m really hopeful we can stress that as much as possible.”

All four panelists, however, agreed there are major challenges for the nightlife industry to overcome. The prohibitive cost of events for budget-conscious young people was a recurring concern, as was the lack of suitable spaces in major cities, and how festival exclusivity periods make it hard for promoters to deliver bills that will attract audiences.

Burgess noted the shift towards daytime raving and special events, while Ross added the slow-moving bureaucracy of licensing is also problematic. Partisan operates under a temporary events notice which limits the venue to just 21 days of events per year – and one under which any event which runs past midnight counts as two days of their allowance.

Keens was eager to emphasise that the rise of food events in nightlife shouldn’t change the essence of the experience. “There’s an art to clubbing or nightlife that shouldn’t be forgotten about,” he stated. “My worry is that we lose all of that expression and it gets subsumed by the very professional industry that is catering, which is very economically driven.”

“Venues should have ownership and freeholds of the spaces, not just leases, so they don’t become victims of their own success”

Miller agreed with this point. He reflected that scenes such as acid house were often driven by people eager to experiment, innovate and take risks. A larger, corporate business, he said, wouldn’t generate the same atmosphere as a DIY initiative with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Miller argued that nightlife should be more pivotal in the planning of urban policy-makers. Every aspect of city life – eg police, licensing, environment and transport – has an impact upon the night scene, but their differing needs often make for frustrating contradictions for clubs.

One of Miller’s suggestions was for huge investment in affordable housing for young people, which would make city life more affordable while also providing cheaper rents for venues. That would be complemented by ensuring that clubs which add to the wealth and ambience of a location shouldn’t subsequently be priced out. “We should campaign that venues should have ownership and freeholds of the spaces, not just leases, so they don’t become victims of their own success in places like Brixton, Peckham and Hackney,” he said.

Despite the challenges, everyone was eager to assert what they’re excited about in the UK clubbing scene: from Bristol’s Al Fresco Disco to creative communities such as the Islington Mill in Salford, and even the hook-them-in-early appeal of baby raves.

Most importantly, however, Miller asserted that people need to stand up for what they believe in.

“We have to have a collective conversation,” he affirmed. “I really don’t think it’s up to people in policy or just the people who are running clubs. I think people who are clubbers and who go out and care about what they want to see should be involved in that conversation. I can’t overestimate how much influence ordinary people can have on that.”

 


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