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UK: 90,000 cultural jobs lost due to pandemic

Around 86,000 jobs in the UK’s cultural nighttime economy sector have been lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which commissioned the report, says it has found that the sector has been “ravaged” by the pandemic.

The report shows for the first time the value of the UK’s nighttime cultural economy, which was 1.6% of GDP – or £36.4 billion – in 2019. This contribution accounted for 425,000 jobs across the UK.

The NTIA says there are fears that many of the jobs lost to the pandemic in the nighttime economy sector will be lost for good, with businesses closing and persistently lower demand for services.

The association has warned that it is “the worst possible time to introduce vaccine passports, which will further damage a sector essential to the economic recovery”.

“We are calling for [the chancellor] to extend the 12.5% rate of VAT on hospitality until 2024, including door sales”

“[This report is] timely because at this moment, governments in Scotland and Wales are pressing ahead with chaotic vaccine passport plans, and the UK government refuses to rule out their use in England,” says Michael Kill, CEO at NTIA.

“It is crucial the chancellor uses the upcoming Budget to support this beleaguered sector. We are calling for him to extend the 12.5% rate of VAT on hospitality until 2024, include door sales in that reduced rate of VAT, because the present system punishes nightclubs that rely on door sales rather than selling tickets, and for him to ensure there are no increases in alcohol duties – our sector really cannot afford any additional burdens.”

The last Budget took place on 3 March 2021 and included an extra £300 million for the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF), ‘restart grants’ for hospitality/leisure businesses, the extension of the coronavirus job retention scheme (furlough) and self-employed income support (SEISS) schemes, and business rate relief.

The budget also confirmed an extension of the 5% rate of VAT on ticket sales for a further six months, with an interim rate of 12.5% until April 2022.

 


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Scottish gov apologises for vaccine passport ‘shambles’

The first minister of Scotland today apologised to the event industry for the botched rollout of the country’s vaccine passport app.

Vaccine certification became mandatory for large events and nightclubs last Friday (1 October) but ‘a vast majority’ of people experienced repeated problems in registering and uploading their personal vaccine status to the app, according to the events sector.

Scottish venues reported high levels of customer frustration over the lack of information from government and the chaotic rollout of the app.

 

In her weekly Covid-19 update this afternoon, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said NHS Scotland systems were to blame for the troubled launch rather than the app itself.

Sturgeon went on to say that the “initial backlog” of those waiting for the vaccine passport had been “cleared” by Saturday (2 October) lunchtime and that the Scottish government would continue to monitor the performance of the app.

“As anticipated, the rollout of this ill-conceived policy led to chaos and confusion in the street”

However, the event industry – which warned against the policy – is calling for the scheme to be scrapped immediately to avoid further damage to a ‘very fragile nighttime economy’.

Donald Macleod, MD Holdfast Entertainment/CPL, said: “Sadly and predictably [Friday’s] front door trialling of the Scottish Government’s new Covid Certification App proved to be problematic and highly confusing, with the vast majority of punters unable to access the app or show the required proof. This is an APP-ALLING shambles which if allowed to continue will have a devastating effect on the very fragile night-time economy. This ridiculous ‘Big Brother’ experiment and infringement of an individual’s civil rights should be dropped immediately.”

Mike Grieve, chairperson NTIA Scotland & Sub Club director, said: “As anticipated, the rollout of this ill-conceived policy led to chaos and confusion in the street [on Friday] with only a handful of our customers in possession of a functioning app passport. Around 50-60 others had a photocopy or screenshot of the wrong vaccination information or other spurious evidence of vaccination. Despite this we successfully checked all attendees for same-day LFTs to protect the health and safety of our customers and staff. What a shambles!”

Tony Cochrane, director of Club Tropicana, said: “The majority of customers at my clubs throughout Scotland told us they were annoyed and frustrated at multiple failed attempts to download the vaccine app and lost all faith in it. Others found no guidance on how to get it. You only get one chance to launch anything and this one must be one of the greatest failures ever. Public confidence in this has gone.”

Sturgeon said that Covid certification remains, in the Scottish government’s view, “a proportionate way of helping large events and night-time hospitality to keep operating during a potentially difficult winter”.

 


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Scottish parliament approves vaccine passports

The Scottish parliament yesterday (9 September) approved plans for vaccine passports, which will come into force from 1 October for those seeking entry to nightclubs and ‘analogous venues’, as well as large-scale events.

Scotland is one of the few countries in the world to implement a vaccine passport that doesn’t include test results – following in the footsteps of Israel which also restricts entry to those who have been fully vaccinated.

The new vaccine certification rules will mean that anyone over the age of 18 will need to show they have had both doses of the vaccine before they are allowed entry to:

Exemptions will apply to under 18s (to be kept under review), participants in vaccine trials, people unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons and employees at venues within the scope of the scheme.

The Scottish government is yet to finalise a definition of ‘nightclubs and analogous venues’ prompting music industry bodies to criticise the lack of detail in the policy.

“[This policy] potentially disproportionately penalises young people, excluding one in four of them from the late-night economy”

Music Venue Trust CEO, Mark Davyd, says: “As it stands this Scottish government policy amounts to an attempt to exclude some people from going somewhere at some time, without proving adequate information on when, where, who or how.

“In doing so it potentially disproportionately penalises young people, excluding one in four of them from the late-night economy, and people from diverse backgrounds, excluding nearly 50% of them from the late-night economy.”

Davyd also complains that no financial support has been offered to deliver the policy, and none offered to mitigate the impacts it will have on business.

Affected venues will be required to download a free QR code verifier app to a smartphone or device and staff will be required to check a customer’s QR code to ensure the record of vaccination is genuine.

The cost of the app is free, but any additional staffing or infrastructure costs to deliver the scheme will be absorbed by the business.

“The Scottish government has targeted the late-night economy throughout this pandemic”

An overview on the government’s website suggests that the regulations should impose a legal obligation on the person responsible for operating the business or venue to ‘take all reasonable measures’ to restrict entry only to those fully vaccinated.

The Scottish government plans to publish guidance to set out what ‘reasonable measures’ would be proportionate in different settings with different capacities.

The Nighttime Industries Association (NTIA) – the membership of which includes many clubbing businesses that will be affected by the new requirement – says the vote has “put an already fragile nighttime economy on a dangerous path to devastation”.

“The Scottish government has targeted the late-night economy throughout this pandemic,” says Michael Kill, CEO, NTIA. “Our industry has gone to exceptional lengths to support the public health strategy in Scotland, and have been led to believe that consultation would be considered and enacted upon, but instead, we have been met with empty promises and hollow words.”

“Thousands of people in Scotland’s nighttime economy have lost jobs, businesses are overburdened with debt and many have not survived.”

“The call for evidence from the Scottish government has been ignored, and has left us no option but to challenge this, as an industry in the coming weeks, or we will suffer the catastrophic consequences of ill-thought out policy.”

Elsewhere in the UK, the British government has said it will press ahead with plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and other crowded indoor venues from the end of next month. It is rumoured that Wales is also considering launching a vaccine-only passport this autumn.

 


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Unsung Heroes 2020: Michael Kill

Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 just before Christmas, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.

We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most-voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, continuing with Night Time Industry Association (NTIA) CEO, Michael Kill, who follows UK-based concert promoter Alexandra Ampofo.


As the CEO of the Night Time Industry Association (NTIA), Michael Kill’s primary goal is to ensure that both its members and the wider industry has a voice. “We aim to protect, serve, and redefine the narrative surrounding nightlife without being engulfed by restrictive government structures and assumptions,” he states.

“Needless to say, the arrival of Covid-19 in March has made the past eight months the most testing and demanding in the NTIA’s short, six-year history. Fortunately, myself and the majority of the team share over two decades’ worth of experience in the night time industries, and that’s positioned us well to tackle each obstacle as it arrives.”

Covid has taken a tremendous toll on the night-time economy in the UK, with tens of thousands of businesses and millions of employees facing hardship, as government restrictions time and again ignore their plight – until Kill and his NTIA team step in…

“From the beginning of campaigning, we realised that one of our biggest strengths was the night-time community itself”

“From the very beginning of campaigning, we realised that one of our biggest strengths was the night-time community itself, and so we’ve worked hard to bring together and support businesses and individuals at every level,” says Kill. “We’ve focused heavily on strong communications, not only to galvanise our own community but also to realign the night-time industries within a cultural context so it’s recognised for its achievements and gets the backing it deserves.”

He continues, “It has been a political rollercoaster. In a bid to secure financial support packages and government clarity, we’ve come up against various task forces and departments, many with their own differing objectives and opinions. Nevertheless, campaigns like #LetUsDance and #Savenightlife have secured vital funding for the electronic music scene, raising £350k [€390k] in support of venues across the country, and securing unrivalled visibility for the cause. And there’s much more to come.

“At the NTIA, we continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the industry so that future generations can build the same connections, experiences and values that have been so pivotal to all our lives. For me – both personally and professionally – I know I wouldn’t be the same without it.”

 


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Millions expected to attend illegal parties on NYE

More than 5,000 unlawful parties are expected to take place in the UK over the new year weekend, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has warned.

The association, which represents more than 100 nightclubs, bars and music venues, says there is a risk of “millions of people converging across the UK” from 31 December–3 January, sparking fears of a fresh coronavirus outbreak in January.

The situation, it says, is exacerbated by the ongoing closure of most night-time businesses, which “would normally manage huge crowds of people through the new year’s celebrations”.

Illegal raves have been on the increase across Europe since the summer as frustration builds over coronavirus restrictions preventing legal gatherings.

“There is a growing concern that new year’s eve is going to culminate in social unrest”

“There is a growing concern that new year’s eve is going to culminate in social unrest and will see a substantial number of illegal parties and mass gatherings following the closure of businesses at 11pm, with a real risk of overwhelming the police and emergency services,” comments Michael Kill, CEO of the NTIA.

“We are estimating that the UK will be witness to over 5,000 illegal parties across new year’s eve weekend. The government needs to consider ways in which to manage this grave situation – people will want to celebrate the end of 2020 in their own way, so ignoring the issue will not resolve what will be a significant car crash in every sense of the term.”

Parklife promoter and Manchester night czar Sacha Lord adds: “The closure of hospitality venues in tier three, combined with the 11pm curfew elsewhere, only serves to encourage house parties and outdoor gatherings, and it’s inevitable we will see an increase of these on new year’s eve.

“I urge all those considering hosting or attending a gathering to think about those around them who may be vulnerable to Covid-19, and to put their health and safety first.”

 


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UK: No live music in NI, no music at all in Scotland

Scottish music venues struggling under the weight of restrictions on live events are being further penalised by a draconian ban on all background music, according to the owners of nightlife businesses.

The devolved Scottish government introduced the ban on 14 August, citing an increased risk of Covid-19 transmission when people raise their voices to be heard in venues, pubs and restaurants. However, the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) – which says it believes the ban to be unique in the world, with Scotland the only country to have completely outlawed background music – says the ban lacks scientific evidence and is placing extra pressure on already strained businesses.

Promoter Donald Macleod, of Holdfast Events, says: “The sound of silence is now killing much of Scotland’s hospitality sector and beleaguered night-time economy; don’t let that be our nation’s Covid legacy. In the words of Plato: ‘Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.’”

“The background music ban is the kiss of death to ambience within the hospitality sector,” agrees Andrew Fleming Brown, managing director of Glasgow venue SWG3 (4,000-cap.). “There has not been any scientific evidence presented to support the ban, and, in fact, the only evidence indicates it has the reverse effect.”

In response to the ban – which also extends to the sound of televisions in pubs – the NTIA has announced a campaign, #DontStopTheMusic, which calls on supporters to share their favourite song of all time along with the #DontStopTheMusic hashtag.

“Our already damaged sector is in serious danger of being permanently wiped out”

Michael Grieve, chairman of NTIA Scotland, comments: “The total ban on background music is having a severe effect on many hospitality businesses, leading to completely sterile environments which some have likened to visiting a library.

“It seems completely disproportionate relative to other settings – and while our industry is totally committed to the serious public health imperatives which the Scottish government is focused on, our already damaged sector is in serious danger of being permanently wiped out unless this ban is removed.”

Like in the rest of Great Britain, pubs, clubs and other indoor spaces are Scotland are currently subject to a 10pm curfew, with only concert venues and theatres exempt if a performance has already started.

Elsewhere in the UK, authorities in Northern Ireland have confirmed that new restrictions introduced on 23 September include a total ban on live music.

In a summary of the new legal requirements for venues where alcohol is served, the Northern Irish tourist board, in a section on ‘entertainment and noise’, reveals that live music is “not permitted”, along with recorded music “for the purposes of dancing (ie DJs)”.

Recorded background music is still allowed in the country, though businesses are required to ensure they keep background music and televised sport at a volume where patrons do not need to raise their voices to speak.

“We call for the government to engage with our sector before imposing seemingly arbitrary decisions on an already struggling industry”

Northern Ireland does, however, have a slightly later curfew for hospitality businesses than in Great Britain: 11pm, as opposed to ten.

Colin Neill from industry group Hospitality Ulster describes the announcement today of a curfew as “another blow to our industry”.

“The sector is going to lose hours, it’s losing staff and it has lost live music, and needs to be given a fighting chance,” he says.

Alan Simms, founder of legendary dance music brand Shine and director of Belfast venue Limelight, says he has seen “no medical, scientific or behavioural evidence in favour of such curfews”, and that ejecting patrons at 11pm will push them “out of safe premises with social distancing measures into the streets en masse, and drive substantially higher footfall to unregulated environments, as has been observed in England at the weekend.”

“Furthermore, we believe we can deliver, and have already delivered, live music events safely within government guidelines, and call for the [Northern Ireland] Executive to engage with our sector before imposing seemingly arbitrary decisions on an already struggling industry,” he adds.

Along with their colleagues in England, Wales and Scotland, Northern Irish crew and touring staff took to the streets in recent days as part of the #WeMakeEvents campaign.

 


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UK braces for long weekend of illegal events

Police, local authorities and industry associations have warned would-be party promoters against organising illegal gatherings in the UK this long weekend, after the government announced tougher fines for those found to be facilitating “the most serious breaches of social distancing restrictions”.

Britain’s home secretary, Priti Patel, announced earlier this week that anyone who organises an illegal rave, unlicensed music event or any other “unlawful” gathering of more than 30 people could be liable for a fine of £10,000.

Those who attend said events could also be punished with a fine of £100 for each violation, Patel (pictured) said.

“To the organisers of this sort of activity, I strongly advise that you seriously consider the risks you’re creating for everyone in attendance and the wider community,” says Commander Ade Adelekan, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for unlicensed music events.

Illegal raves have been on the increase in the UK in recent months amid the continuing shutdown of live entertainment, with unlicensed events also reported in France and elsewhere in continental Europe.

In London alone, the Metropolitan Police has responded to more than 1,000 unlicensed events since the end of June, receiving information on more than 200 events across the city in a single weekend, according to the Home Office.

“The government must consider safe options to allow the night-time economy and events sector to reopen”

There are fears the three-day weekend (Monday 31 August is a public holiday in the UK) could see an escalation in the number of illicit events, with councils across the country warning people against organising or attending illegal mass gatherings.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night-Time Industries Association, says a spike in unlicensed parties over the bank holiday weekend will “escalate an already increasing number of unregulated and unsafe events placing young people at risk”.

“Small house parties and raves have been bubbling under the surface of society for many years now – but lockdown has intensified this, with young people searching for alternatives to late-night venues as they struggle to cope with continuing restrictions on their lives due to the pandemic,” he comments.

“Bank holidays present a particular challenge, but given the imminent reintroduction of student communities to university cities, and restrictions on the reopening of nightclubs and venues, we are concerned that the freshers’ period will result in an eruption of illegal house parties and gatherings. This will create challenging times for police forces up and down the country.”

He continues: “As the night-time economy and events sector is unable to reopen to provide safe spaces for young people to express themselves, DIY alternatives are being organised which are unregulated and may compromise young people’s safety. Previous illegal events have resulted in several serious incidents, but have continued to grow in popularity over the last few months.

“Thousands of businesses remain closed and struggle to survive and protect the livelihoods of their staff while unsafe illegal events continue. The government must consider safe options to allow the night-time economy and events sector to reopen to help combat the rise in illegal parties and raves across the country.”+

 


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Dance music is art

Dance music has been gradually evolving since the 1970s, embedding its influence across generations. Dance music is continually changing, uniting multiple genres, cultures, nations, and histories to create a single art form.

Therefore, not only should electronic music demand its own recognition within the arts, but it should be recognised as the one unique musical art form that acts as a conduit for all other music genres as it constantly reinvents itself.

Electronic music does not discriminate, rather it brings together, regardless of age and background. It has long been established that club and festival dance culture is a vital part of British heritage, as well as generating millions of pounds in revenue for the economy, it adds to the ever-growing nightlife tourism figures boasting 300 million visits a year across the UK.

Given the investment of many European countries in the arts sector specifically supporting and recognising the value of classic and contemporary art forms, the UK government has been under immense pressure to follow in the footsteps of their counterparts by properly funding a sector that generates significant revenues for the exchequer.

On 5 July 2020, an announcement was made by the UK culture secretary highlighting a £1.57billion (€1.73bn) arts and culture fund.

Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said, “Our arts and culture are the soul of our nation. They make our country great and are the lynchpin of our world-beating and fast-growing creative industries. I understand the grave challenges the arts face and we must protect and preserve all we can for future generations. Today we are announcing a huge support package of immediate funding to tackle the funding crisis they face. I said we would not let the arts down, and this massive investment shows our level of commitment.”

“Electronic music has always been a popular art form that reaches a diverse number of communities, but which now finds itself excluded, even if only by narrative”

But when asked about potential support for music venues and festivals on the 9 July during Parliament, he announced the fund would “cover grassroots music venues, concert halls and indoor arenas… those wholly or mainly used for performance of live music for the purposes of entertaining an audience,” with no mention of clubs or festivals.

Sector trade bodies have continually asked for clarification from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, on whether dance music clubs, festivals and events will be included, but the department has so far failed to provide assurances or clarity, so we await the details of eligibility in the coming weeks.

The industry is astounded at the government’s failure to recognise dance music clubs and events within its narrative as part of arts and culture, and continues to drive a clear message regarding its eligibility to apply for the funding in line with the live sector.

What the government fails to understand is that much of the sector operates venues that house both live and dance/recorded music events, and in many cases, they survive symbiotically in support of each other with many successful examples within the market place.

Electronic music has always been a popular art form that reaches a diverse number of communities, but which now finds itself excluded, even if only by narrative!

Surely the Government can recognise the importance of this sector to youth culture, and through the rise of the illegal rave scene recognise the value of professional regulated spaces where people can enjoy themselves and the music safely.

The industry has to now drive the agenda, as we see the tide turn between removal of risk to management of risk, it’s time to get the science to work for us.

Dance music is the world’s third most popular music genre, with an estimated audience of over 1.5 billion. But, despite the global influence and economic importance of British dance music and culture, government support and clarity on the future of the sector has so far been very limited.

 


Michael Kill is CEO of the UK’s Night Time Industries Association.

Outdoor events get go-ahead in England

Small open-air concerts, festivals and other live events can resume in England this weekend, provided social distancing measures are applied, the government announced yesterday (9 July).

The news comes in a week of positive developments for the UK live industry, following the announcement of a £1.57 billion aid package for the cultural sector on Sunday and a reduction in value-added tax (VAT) levied on event tickets on Wednesday.

The easing of restrictions, which sees the country move to stage three of a five-step roadmap for the reopening of the live entertainment industry, allows outdoor shows to take place “with a limited and socially distanced audience”.

Venues will also have to use electronic ticketing systems and keep a record of visitor details in case test and trace measures are needed.

“Our culture, heritage and arts are too precious to lose. That’s why we’re protecting venues like theatres from redevelopment if they fall on hard times,” says culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

“From 11 July we can all enjoy performances outdoors with social distancing and we are working hard to get indoor audiences back as soon as we safely can, following pilots.”

The government is currently working alongside industry bodies including the Musicians’ Union and UK Theatre, as well as with venues such as the London Palladium, to pilot a number of small indoor performances to inform plans on how to get indoor venues back up and running.

“It is a step forward that some performances can resume in limited outdoor settings, but there is still no date for a return to indoor live performances”

Indoor events will be permitted to reopen in England in the next stage of the roadmap, restricted to a “limited, distanced audience” and stage five allows for the reopening of all events with fuller audiences, but dates have yet to be given for the latter stages of the recovery roadmap.

Dowden adds that the government is working to give “further clarity on restart dates”.

Members of the UK entertainment industry have repeatedly criticised the absence of dates from the government’s reopening roadmap.

“It is a step forward that some performances can resume in limited outdoor settings, but there is still no date for a return to indoor live performances, either with restricted or full audiences,” comments Incorporated Society of Musicians CEO Deborah Annetts.

“This uncertainty hangs over many thousands of musicians whose income is overwhelmingly dependent on performing, and whose lives have ground to a complete halt as a result of Covid-19.”

Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) CEO Michael Kill says that the announcement “lack[s] any real detail or information on where our sector stands”.

“We implore the government in the strongest terms to recognise our sector within Arts and Culture, and prioritise sector specific support before some amazing cultural businesses are lost forever,” says Kill.

Photo: UK Parliament (CC BY 3.0) (cropped)

 


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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UK biz awaits reopening info as sector faces ‘mass closures’

Industry associations in the UK have called on the government for sector-specific support and “absolute clarity” on reopening, as it is estimated that 90% of venues and festivals in the country face permanent closure.

According to the UK Live Music Group, which sits within trade body UK Music as the collective voice of promoters, festivals, agents, venues and production services, nearly a billion pounds will be wiped off the value of the UK music industry without state support and clarity on when – and how – live events will return.

Last week, grassroots venues representative the Music Venue Trust (MVT) asked for “an immediate cash injection” of £50 million, warning that a lack of immediate aid will result in “mass closures” of venues over the summer months.

The organisation also proposes a one-off cut in value-added tax (VAT) on ticket sales for the next three years for venues and promoters.

MVT states that the industry is currently facing “a substantial loss of infrastructure”, with nine out of ten venues and the festivals in the country at risk of permanent closure.

“Frustration and anger is growing within the sector to get some absolute clarity on when businesses will be able to reopen and what extended provision will be available to businesses unable to open under the measures presented by government”

The charity’s Save Our Venues campaign has so far raised £2m, providing short-term relief for many venues. However, “relying on donations simply isn’t sustainable as we move into a recovery phase”, says MVT CEO Mark Davyd, who recently spoke on an IQ Focus panel on the difficulties facing grassroots music venues.

The call comes as the UK’s Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) criticises the government for “procrastinating” over the future.

“Frustration and anger is growing within the sector to get some absolute clarity on when businesses will be able to reopen and what extended provision will be available to businesses unable to open under the measures presented by government,” comments NTIA CEO Michael Kill.

Kill says that “consistent ambiguous messaging” from the government has increased “the level of anxiety” amongst business owners.

“At what point is the government going to realise that we are playing with people’s livelihoods here, and businesses and jobs are being lost with every passing day?” asks Kill.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce details of the next phase of reopening – starting from 4 July – tomorrow (23 June), with updates anticipated for businesses across the hospitality sector.

The outcome of a review on the possible relaxation of the two metre social distancing rule is also expected in the coming days.

Photo: Maurice/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)

 


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