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Manchester to gain Covid-compliant drive-in theatre

A new 800-capacity drive-in theatre is set to open in Manchester next year and will be permitted to operate even under tier 3 restrictions.

Manchester is once again subject to the toughest restrictions in the UK’s three-tier system – which came into force on Wednesday (2 December) after the national lockdown ended – due to the city’s ‘very high’ weekly cases rate.

However, come spring next year, locals can get their culture fix regardless of restrictions when the new DriveInside Theatre opens at the Trafford Centre.

A four-week run of shows will begin in March, with creators Beyond Theatre hosting more than 30 productions including Queen by Candlelight, Viva 4Ever and The Immersive Rocky Experience.

Creator of the venue, Paul Levin, says: “We are really an immersive theatre production company, but when Covid shut down our productions we started thinking about how we could put on live performances again.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be able to offer the lifeline of some real work for around 1,000 industry people”

“The DriveInside Theatre is our answer, and we cannot wait to bring the thrill and excitement of live events back to the people of Manchester.

“Our industry has suffered terribly throughout the pandemic. The vast majority of people working in theatre are contract based and usually supplement their income in slow periods by working in hospitality.

“With both industries being hit so hard we are absolutely thrilled to be able to offer the lifeline of some real work for around 1,000 industry people in Manchester next March.”

Ticket prices are per seat with a discount for three seats or more per vehicle. Each booking will be given its own parking space and adjacent viewing area beneath a 68,000 sq ft marquee, which will be the largest in Europe, according to organisers.

Visitors will be asked to leave their vehicles on the driver’s side to manage social distancing from other guests.

The format of the event is similar to that of the Virgin Money Unity Arena, the country’s first socially distanced arena which opened in Newcastle in August.

 


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UK industry welcomes u-turn on alcohol ban

Figures from across the UK’s live music business have welcomed a government U-turn on newly introduced restrictions that would have stopped venues selling alcohol without a full meal. The news comes after a week of intense lobbying from the sector, in particular by umbrella organisation LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment).

The British government last week announced a ban on selling alcohol without food for establishments in tier 2, one of the three new tier restriction levels being introduced this week. Tier 2 currently comprises around 60% of the population of England.

With alcohol sales typically making a majority of a venue’s income, and hundreds of venues unable to serve a full meal, the legislation was poised to shut down a large swathe of the sector. Today’s news gives many venues and promoters the ability to programme shows in December and January, albeit still in line with current guidelines on social distancing.



The exemption inserted into the legislation applies “where alcohol is being provided to a customer at a cinema, theatre, concert hall or sportsground and the alcohol is ordered by, and served to, a customer who has a ticket for an exhibition of a film, a performance or an event of training or competition at the venue, to consume in the area where the audience is seated to watch the exhibition, performance or event”.

Phil Bowdery, chair of the Concert Promoters Association, says: “LIVE is delighted that the government has listened to our calls to allow alcohol to be sold at live music venues under the new tier 2 restrictions. This announcement is hugely important for our industry as stopping the sale of alcohol was going to mean that even if venues were technically able to open under tier 2, they wouldn’t have been able to financially.

“This decision represents a significant opportunity to all in the music industry to economically work on events”

“There’s still a long way to go for the live music industry to recover, and the new situation is extremely challenging for those in tier 3, but we’re grateful to all those involved, in the industry and in government, for securing this sensible step.”

Mark Dayvd, CEO at Music Venue Trust, says: “Music Venue Trust and LIVE worked hard with the government to make the case that the consumption of culture and the consumption of food should be treated equally. We are delighted that guidance has been issued that makes it clear that ticketed events at grassroots music venues can go ahead in tier 2 with alcohol on sale. It makes a direct difference to the number of shows that can be delivered and is a significant step forward in the campaign to Revive Live Music and Reopen Every Venue Safely.”

Nathan Clark, board member at the Association of Independent Promoters, adds: “This decision represents a significant opportunity to all in the music industry to economically work on events, and to also utilise any Culture Recovery Funding. It gives a potential lifeline opportunity to both grassroots venues and promoters that simply wouldn’t have been possible without this amendment. A huge step in the right direction for music.”

The new three-tier system will replace the national lockdown that expires on 2 December. Under tier 2 restrictions, 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.

Under tier 3 (which reportedly accounts for 41.5% of the population of England) all hospitality will close except for delivery and takeaway, including indoor entertainment venues. Areas in tier three include vast swathes or the north-east, north-west, Yorkshire and the Humber, the south-west and the East and West Midlands, as well parts of Kent and the south-east – meaning many music venues in the UK will remain closed.

 


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UK live calls for exemption from new restrictions

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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