Freedom Day will be postponed from 21st June to 19th July, much to the disappointment of nightclubs, cinemas, theatres, event owners and brides-to-be.
The rise of the Delta variant, now accounting for 90% of infections, has played a huge role in reopening being pushed back. Delta is said to be more infectious version of COVID and therefore quicker to spread. The doubled likelihood of hospitalisation from the new variant has worried authorities, as even a small increase in COVID-related hospital patients will affect the non-COVID patients, many of whom have been waiting throughout lockdown for treatment.
Pub owners were hoping, with the summer weather and Euro 2020, that there would be a boom in custom and their venues would often be full to capacity. However, the news indicates pubs will remain restricted to table service and must abide by strict safe-spacing rules.
Nightclub owners will be having to postpone or cancel any booked events. Expense, now wasted, on marketing and booking will hit hard for nightclubs who are already just about holding on. The Night Time Industries Association said businesses such as nightclubs had already spent millions preparing to reopen and any delay beyond 21 June would be “catastrophic”.
Theatre owners will be categorically unable to open fully, possibly having to reimburse customers for tickets. Andrew Lloyd Webber has been very vocal, pledging to reopen his theatres this month come hell or high water telling the media that he is willing to be arrested.
Leniency might be offered toward due-to-be-married couples as weddings will see restrictions relaxed within moderation. The UK Weddings Taskforce warned there are 50,000 weddings planned in the four weeks from 21 June, all of which could be cancelled, with the industry losing £325m for every week of delay. The current limit is thirty guests, but this expected to rise post-June 21st.
A double standard
It is perhaps a double standard, from rules on sporting events compared to mourners, wakes and weddings, many feel there is no clear indication on the government’s reasoning. Nightlife businesses and hospitality feel more and more like they are getting the short straw and are being treated unfairly. UK nightlife is being underestimated and undermined.
“A full and final ending of restrictions is the only way to ensure that businesses in this sector can trade profitably,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality. “Hospitality is desperate to get back to what it does best and can play a key role in the economic recovery of the UK – but only if it is given permission to trade and proper support.”
In response to the government’s announcement, business leaders have called on the Treasury to extend financial. “We are now approaching a cliff edge, with Government support for business ending or beginning to taper off” says Dr Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors. “It is vital that this support is pushed out commensurately with the lockdown extension. Economic support and public health measures must be aligned.”
The current support provided is for government contributions towards furlough at 80%, whereas post-June 21st, this will change to 70% with a mandatory 10% contribution from the employer. This necessary payment could end businesses which currently have no means of funding, therefore experts are calling for Rishi Sunak, the Treasurer, to rethink the phasing.
In a statement, the NTIA warned that a delay will make businesses in the sector “highly reliant” on Government support as they are already heavily burdened with debt:
Director of NDML, Victoria Romero-Trigo, published a statement on the delay:
“Nightlife and hospitality are a vital component of the country’s culture and economy, a component that has been treated with little regard over the course of the last 15 months. This late-on news that there will be a delay to reopening has been news many of our clients and friends have been dreading. We will work in partnership with the NTIA to help nightlife and hospitality businesses get the support that they need.”
The SAVENIGHTLIFE campaign
Those at #SaveNightlife #LetUsDance & Night Time Industries Association have put together a campaign asking “What Next when there’s no one and nothing to dance to?”