'Freedom Day' delay will 'decimate' night-time economy

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

'Freedom Day' delay will 'decimate' night-time economy

Related tags Night time economy Freedom Day Coronavirus

A delay to the final stage of the Government's roadmap out of lockdown will 'decimate' the night-time economy, with a quarter of business facing imminent closure without further financial support.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce later today (14 June) that so-called 'Freedom Day' plans to drop all legal restrictions on social contact in England will no longer go ahead on 21 June as hoped, and will instead be pushed back by four weeks.

It will mean that nightclubs, which have primarily been forced to remain closed since the start of the pandemic, will now not be able to reopen until at least Monday 19 July.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) warns that while the night-time economy remains resilient, a decision to delay the lifting of restrictions will leave many businesses, employees and freelancers on a financial cliff edge.

“Night-time economy businesses have waited patiently for their opportunity to open for over 15 months," says Michael Kill, CEO of the NTIA.

"Many have not survived, some are on a financial cliff edge, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, a huge pool of talent has been swept away and others have been left to suffer extreme financial hardship. 

“We should not underestimate the importance of the 21 June to these businesses, employees, entertainers and freelancers, a day when they should be given back there opportunity to trade, regain their livelihoods, careers, social well being and the day that the Government is due to give culture back to the UK.

“Many of these businesses and individuals have adapted, overcome and survived for an exceptional length of time with the bare bones of support, and have arrived at this opportunity to find that it could be ripped away from them.” 

A flash survey of 300 night-time economy businesses, carried out by the NTIA, has found that one in four will not survive longer than one month without further Government support, and 50% no longer than two months. 

More than half (54%) of businesses have spent over £15K in preparation for reopening on 21 June already, and 17.8% have spent over £40K.

Meanwhile, a third (33%) of businesses estimate they will lose over 30% of their workforce due to the delay in the easing of lockdown.

“Any delay will drive confidence in the sector to a new low, culminating in workforce leaving the sector, and customers who are starved of social engagement, attending illegal unregulated events in place of businesses that are well operated, licensed and regulated,” adds Kill.

The NTIA is calling on the Government to extend both VAT and business rates relief, the latter of which is set to taper off at the end of June.

It has also asked for a further extension to the lease forfeiture moratorium, which prevents landlords from repossessing commercial premises if businesses are unable to pay their rent as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, beyond the end of June.

"Businesses are overburdened with debt," continues Kill.

"Any decision to delay will make them heavily reliant on the Government to extend financial support and relief, including additional restriction grants, exclusion from furlough contributions, and extension of loan repayment holidays for the Business Interruption and Bounce Back loan schemes.

“The Government must understand the human impact of this decision, not only considering the public health challenges of the virus but also the people within our sector who are suffering terribly and the real health risks that this represents, given the overwhelming confidence in the vaccination rollout, and the ability for the sector to deliver Covid-safe environments.

“Distressed industries cannot continue to be held in limbo, as businesses are left to fall, any decision to delay without clarity on when they can open will leave us no other option but to challenge the Government, standing alongside many other industries who have been locked down or restricted from opening for an extreme length of time, through no fault of their own, and at their own cost.”

Last week the NTIA said it was working alongside key partners within different sectors to collectively challenge the Government​ if it chose to delay the lifting of restrictions.

UKHospitality has warned today (14 June) that maintaining social distancing restrictions for a further four weeks will cost the sector around £3bn in sales​ and put approximately 300,000 jobs at risk.

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