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#savenightclubs urges UK PM to prevent “tsunami” of losses

New nationwide coalition #savenightclubs has published an open letter to UK prime minister Boris Johnson urging him to act now or “permanently lose the country’s nightclub industry and the enormous economic contribution it makes to the UK”.

The letter emphasises that nightclubs in the UK have been shuttered for eight months now and 70% of people working in nightclubs are self employed and therefore were not eligible for the furlough scheme.

The call for support follows the coalition’s recent survey of 101 nightclub owners and managers which revealed that 58% of nightclubs across the nation will go out of business within a month, four in five (81%) nightclubs will be shut by Christmas, and 10% expect their business to survive longer than four months.

Now, the initiative is calling on the government to provide a financial survival package beyond the Culture Recovery Fund, introduce protection from eviction for nightclubs during and immediately after the crisis, and extend business rate relief to April 2022.

The letter, which you can read in full below, has been backed by the Night Time Industries Association and myriad clubs across the UK including Infernos in Clapham, The Box in Soho, Cirque Manchester and Bamboo Glasgow.

 


Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to you as a group of over one hundred nightclub owners, managers and workers whose businesses have now been closed for exactly eight months this Friday. We urge the government to act now or permanently lose the country’s nightclub industry and the enormous economic contribution it makes to the UK.

We are writing this letter on behalf of the nightclub industry, a sector who employs circa 45,000 people – 72% of whom are under 25 years old. We are a proud part of British culture and crucial to the UK economy, generating £3bn a year in income. The nightclub industry proudly employs a huge spectrum of job roles including bartenders, DJs, performers, security, cleaners and more. Behind these stats are thousands of individual stories of hardship from people who feel like they have been forgotten.

“We urge the gov to prevent a devastating tsunami of job losses and a wipeout of future economic contributions”

Over the last 8 months, the industry has faced Lockdown 1, household and tiered restrictions and an impossible curfew of 10 pm. Now, in the midst of a second national lockdown and the announcement of the furlough scheme extension until March 2021, this is likely to result in our venues closing for an entire year. Unlike hospitality and gyms who were able to trade over the summer months, we have not been able to open at all resulting in zero revenue since March.

Venues are facing mounting rent bills, ongoing running costs and the prospect of business rates in April 2021. We urge the government to prevent a devastating tsunami of job losses, a wipeout of future economic contributions and further ruin to towns and cities across the UK which are already on their knees.

So far:

Despite the government’s on-going support to sectors such as hospitality and gyms – nightclubs are the forgotten industry. Over 70% of people working in nightclubs are self employed and therefore were not eligible for the furlough scheme. No alternative financial support package has been proposed for the nightclub industry.

Stats:

Last month, #SaveNightclubs carried out a survey revealing that four in five nightclubs (81%) will be shut by Christmas unless the government urgently intervenes.

The #SaveNightclubs campaign calls on the government to:

Provide a financial survival package beyond the Recovery Fund, helping the sector weather Covid’s impact and assist in future reopening.
Introduce protection from eviction for nightclubs during and immediately after the crisis.
Extend business rate relief to April 2022, enabling nightclubs to get back on their feet in 2021.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this letter.

Respectfully yours,
Vincenzo Sibilia and Asher Grant of #SaveNightclubs campaign group


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Italy and Spain reclose nightlife establishments

This article was updated on 19 August, replacing the wording “music venues” with “nightlife establishments”.

Nightlife establishments in Spain and Italy were forced to close with immediate effect over the weekend due to a recent spike in coronavirus cases in both countries.

Spain’s closure of discotheques, cocktail bars and dance halls will be in place for the foreseeable future and was confirmed last Friday (14 August) by health minister Salvador Illa.

“We cannot afford not to be disciplined,” Illa said. “We cannot ignore the virus circulating among us.”

Infections in Spain have risen in recent days following the end of Spain’s tough lockdown seven weeks ago, bringing its cumulative total to 342,813 – the highest number in Western Europe.

Spanish association, the Union of Professional Musicians, has released a statement denouncing the government’s decision and calling for protection for professionals who will be affected by it.

“The forced, massive and indiscriminate closure of nightlife ends all musical and artistic programming that took place in halls and venues under strict compliance with the regulations in force in terms of protection against Covid19,” the statement reads.

“The forced, massive and indiscriminate closure of nightlife ends all musical and artistic programming that took place in halls and venues”

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza announced similar shutdown measures for the country on 16 August via a press release on the government’s website.

“The activities of the dance are suspended, outdoors or indoors that take place in discos, dance halls and similar places intended for entertainment or taking place in beaches, establishments bathing establishments, equipped beaches, free beaches, common areas of the accommodation facilities or other places open to the public.” 

“We cannot nullify the sacrifices made in past months. Our priority must be that of opening schools in September, in full safety,” health minister Roberto Speranza said on Facebook.

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus, and new cases in the past week were more than double those registered three weeks ago.

Spain’s first post-lockdown live music events took place from the 25 May, with outdoor events of up to 400 people and indoor concerts with a maximum capacity of 50 people permitted to resume in Spain.

Whereas Italy made its return to live on 15 June when concert halls, theatres and cinemas were allowed to reopen in Italy, with a maximum capacity of 200 people for indoor shows and 1,000 for performances held outdoors.

 


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Live music markets hit as more cities lock down

The Philippines has become the latest live entertainment market to be put back into lockdown amid concerns a surge in new coronavirus cases could push the healthcare system to collapse.

Stay-at-home orders are now in place in Manila and four surrounding provinces for the next two weeks, prohibiting residents from outdoor activity except for going out to buy essential goods or exercising outdoors.

The country only just emerged from one of the strictest lockdowns in June but after reporting a record 5,032 new infections on Sunday (2 June), numerous medical associations urged President Rodrigo Duterte to toughen restrictions.

The capital city is home to some of the country’s largest venues, including the SM Mall of Asia Arena, which in lieu of live events has transformed into a mega swabbing centre.

Across the Indian Ocean, Melbourne’s gradual reopening of nightlife is still on hold as the city battles a deadly second wave of coronavirus. Australia’s second-biggest city was put back into lockdown on 9 July after a localised outbreak of Covid-19.

Melbourne has recently mandated wearing masks and tightened a stay-at-home order to reduce transmissions.

Parts of Leicester have been relinquished from local lockdown, allowing venues in Leicester City to reopen from yesterday

The state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, is responsible for over half of Australia’s 18,300 recorded cases.

After Victoria recorded another 671 cases of coronavirus on Sunday and seven deaths, premier Daniel Andrews announced a “state of disaster”.

On Sunday (2 August), Andrews introduced new rules including a night-time curfew between the hours of 8pm and 5am for the next six weeks.

In the UK, parts of Leicester have been relinquished from its local lockdown, allowing venues in Leicester City to reopen from yesterday (3 August). Though venues such as The Shed will remain closed, writing “Music venues still aren’t in the clear, and we’re aiming for September!” on its Facebook page.

English venues were preparing to reopen from 1 August but will no longer be able to do so after the government pushes back the next step of lockdown easing by at least two weeks.

Elsewhere, Botswana has reinstated lockdown in the capital, Gaborone, for two weeks after recording 30 new cases of coronavirus. The order took effect last Thursday (30 June).

“Essential services will operate at 25% capacity, there will be no movement within the Greater Gaborone Zone without a movement permit and movement to and from Greater Gaborone Zone will be void with immediate effect,” says Kereng Masupu, the coordinator of the presidential Covid-19 taskforce.


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New late-night trading law to boost Sydney nightlife

Sydney City Council has endorsed changes to planning controls for late-night trading, extending opening hours for live music venues and allowing 24-hour trading in the city’s busiest districts.

The updated Draft Sydney Development Control Plan – Late Night Trading 2018 (Draft DCP) has been informed by a resident and business survey, in which over 10,000 people called for increased trading hours and more late-night activity.

The changes include an increase in opening hours until 2 a.m. for “low impact venues” in local centres and the introduction of an incentive system for venues to host live performances, awarding a bonus hour of trading to a venue for every night of live performance it programs.

Venues will need to apply for extra trading hours through a development application process and will be subject to trial periods to ensure they are well-managed and work in conjunction with the local community.

The council also plans to turn part of Sydney’s Alexandria industrial estate into an arts, entertainment and cultural hub.

“I hope these changes encourage the NSW Government to reconsider the lockout laws and help Sydney regain its status as one of the world’s premier late night destinations”

However, the changes will not override the controversial lockout laws imposed by the New South Wales government on many live music venues. The laws require venues, bars and nightclubs in Sydney’s central business district and Kings Cross area to lock their doors at 2 a.m. and stop serving drinks at 3.30 a.m.

“It’s time for Sydney to become a 24-hour city and we’ve now given businesses the opportunity to open around the clock,” says mayor Clover Moore.

“The City of Sydney is doing its part,” adds Moore. “I hope these changes encourage the NSW Government to reconsider the lockout laws and help Sydney regain its status as one of the world’s premier late night destinations.”

The new late-night development control plan is the result of work by mayor Moore, councillors Jess Miller and Jess Scully and the Nightlife and Creative Sector Advisory Panel.

 


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Hackney Council votes to impose midnight curfew on new venues

The London Borough of Hackney’s council has this week unanimously approved controversial licensing policies that impose a weekend midnight curfew on new venues in the area. The decision goes against the council’s own poll of residents, in which some 73% voted against the measures.

New venues that wish to get around the curfew and prolong their hours will need to be able to prove to authorities that doing so will not provoke antisocial behaviour. Critics of the policy have already commented on the difficulty of this task.

Councillor Emma Plouviez, part of the team that drafted the policy, has defended the council’s actions to Resident Advisor. She says: “The onus will be on new applicants to demonstrate they are responsible, understand the pressures on the area and that their business will not have a negative impact on the area if they want to open late.

“We will help and support them to do that.”

The decision goes against the council’s own poll of residents, in which some 73% voted against the measures.

Despite her defence, many media, residents and local venue owners are still unhappy with the decision. In particular, critics are calling out London’s night czar Amy Lamé, who along with Mayor Sadiq Khan, is said to have been discussing the move for the past year. Responding, the NME published a somewhat scathing article on the decline of London’s nightlife during Lamé’s tenure.

Defending her role, the night czar tweeted that licensing decisions were not her responsibility.

Beyond the midnight curfew, the Special Policy Area (SPA) in Shoreditch, which is already home to well known music venues the Old Blue Last and Village Underground, is set to expand. For many, this means new venues will find it difficult to open in the first place. The news has lead local campaign group We Love Hackney to label the new policies “some of the toughest restrictions on nightlife in Britain” and a “gift to big corporates.”

Since facing criticism, Lamé has announced she has requested an urgent meeting with the council to discuss the way forward for nightlife in the borough.

 


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London appoints first night czar

London today became the biggest city so far to appoint a ‘night czar’ to champion and protect its nightlife.

The hiring of Amy Lamé, an American-born broadcaster, writer and gay rights activist, follows the appointment of night mayors in other cities in Europe and North America, including Berlin, Amsterdam and San Francisco. The creation of the post, which pays £35,000 per annum for two-and-a-half days a week, was a manifesto commitment of London’s new mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Khan’s office says Lamé (pictured) was “appointed based on her extensive knowledge and experience of the night-time economy, having built her career in the industry over the last two decades. She has a proven track record in the area, fighting for the future of one of the capital’s legendary LGBT+ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender +, with the “+” representing other sexual/gender minorities] venues, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern”. In addition to her work as a radio and TV presenter, performer, writer and journalist, Lamé was from 2010 to 2011 ceremonial mayoress of Camden.

Lamé’s first initiative as night czar will be a series of monthly ‘night surgeries’, in which she will speak to businesses, night-time workers, residents and members of the public “to get an understanding of Londoners’ views of the night-time economy”.

“Making Amy night czar is the right kind of investment in all our futures”

Jo Dipple, the CEO of industry umbrella association UK Music, says: “The appointment of Amy Lamé as night czar is brilliant news for London’s music scene, much of which operates outside nine-to-five office hours. In 2015 concerts and festivals attracted 3.2m tourists to London, who spent £1bn in the process.

“Sadiq Khan knows the night-time economy must be sustainable for Londoners, for businesses and for fans. Making Amy night czar is the right kind of investment in all our futures. I would like other cities to follow Sadiq’s lead and put a woman in charge of the night.”

Music Venues Trust’s Mark Davyd adds: “Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes the announcement of the first ever night czar for London. London’s night-time economy plays a crucial role in the success of the capital. […] We look forward to working with the new Night Czar to ensure that London’s grassroots music venues are secured, protected and improved.”

While the appointment of London’s first night mayor/czar is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it remains to be seen how much influence Lamé will have on local authorities – such as Islington council, which recently forced the closure of Fabric. Speaking to IQ in September, Columbo Group (The Camden Assembly/Barfly, Jazz Café) founder Steve Ball expressed doubts about how much difference City Hall can actually make on the capital’s nightlife: “The way licensing is in London means the decision lies with the boroughs, not with City Hall,” he said, “and I’d argue that licensing authorities can often be backwards in their views. When you put licensing at a borough level you get a NIMBYish attitude.”

 


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London club closes doors after drug deaths

London club Fabric has cancelled its weekend’s programme following the deaths of two teenagers at the venue over the last nine weeks.

In a statement posted on the venue’s website, it said: “For the past two years fabric has operated without incident but tragically in the past nine weeks two 18-year-old boys have died as a consequence of drug overdoses.

“In order to understand how this has happened we have agreed with the police and other agencies to suspend our operation whilst we investigate. The club will therefore be closed this weekend.”

“For the past two years fabric has operated without incident but tragically in the past nine weeks two 18-year-old boys have died as a consequence of drug overdoses.”

According to the BBC, one man collapsed outside the venue at 08:20 BST last Saturday and later died in hospital. The other man had collapsed and died nine weeks previously.

Following the deaths, the Metropolitan Police have asked for the nightclub’s licence to be reviewed. Islington Council, which grants Fabric’s licence, had requested that it be suspended.

“We will make a further statement next week,” the statement from the club reads.