NIGHTLIFE UNSCRIPTED, with Leighton De Burca

NDML And Leighton De Burca At The BARBI Trade Show

The NDML team attended the BARBI Trade Show in Bristol. It was a fantastic event, featuring top distributors, independent businesses and key speakers.  

We talked to Leighton De Burca, of Night Watch Bristol, who was speaking at the event about policies and the nightlife economy. We wanted to gauge his unfiltered thoughts as part of our new Nightlife Unscripted series.

Watch the video here:

NDML Talks To Leighton De Burca

“My name is Leighton De Burca, I’m Chair of Night Watch which is Bristol’s pub watch association and I’m Director of AttisTowns which is a placemaking organisation.”

When asked about their most recent experience of nightlife, they said:

“I’ve just flown in from California, I was out in the Gay Village there and at Hunters which has just had a massive refurbishment. They’ve caught up with Europe, they’ve amalgamated their dance floor into a much more European style with live music; and moved towards a European culture with outdoor seating, refurbing the whole [outdoor] area. It was a really successful night and a really popular venue.

When asked what they believe the trending theme of 2024 will be for nightlife, they said:

“One of the main trends to concentrate on for businesses is looking at the niche markets. One of the biggest challenges is post-COVID is that people’s behaviour have changed. The younger generations who couldn’t go out during COVID have had their time cut short, so their whole behaviours have changed. They’ve changed their relationship to alcohols, their much more interested in the experience and paying more for one drink than having lots of cheap booze. And also 38% of university students are now alcohol-free, they don’t drink!

So it’s about looking at your core business and it’s about making sure you offer an experience. Cut down on the mass market and go after niche markets that have a lot more value.

Another trend, as it was in 2023, is people wanting to get away from social media, get away from their phones. A lot of nightclubs are doing the phone lock-away. Generation Z is now the first generation in history to be the largest consumer of old media. They love old media, they love retro – because they are the first digital generation. Gen Alpha, the following generation just starting to go out are the same, they want that bygone vibe, where maybe they play board games when they go out. They don’t want to be bombarded by social media that the millennials and the generation Xs wanted.

When asked what they would do if they were made Prime Minister for a day, they said:

“One of the biggest issues is the business rate system and the taxation system for hospitality. Our system is based on 1991 prices. Take the whole pub industry for example, the entire relationship with the pub world and how our society is constructed has changed dramatically since when pubs were designed to where they are now. Now people go out, they want to socialise over a drink. Whereas in the olden days there were multiple pubs based on the social class and hierarchy of society. Such as the Railway pubs for the railway workers. Different pubs per street were designed for workers from factories. That’s completely different now. So the issue is our taxation system is based on high volumes of drink.

That’s not the case anymore. The government want us to look at our business models, they want us to have healthier lifestyles and drink less, but they are taxing business the same rate than they were in the old days.

I’m 48 now, I’m the older generation in this town. 85% of the population of Bristol is under the age of 45. It’s a major young city. It’s a multicultural city. People want to be able to go out, enjoy themselves and spend money, but the business’s overheads are too high based on what they are able to offer. If you look at cities like London, their licensing and their regulatory system is ten years behind Bristol’s and the other cool cities because they being forced to still work on that 1980/1990s model of @Let’s get people drinking’ and that’s not what people want anymore.

The taxation system is old-fashioned. People have these huge overheads through business rate, VAT and all these other stealth taxes – and that’s the first thing I would change as day one as Prime Minister.”

They also added:

“One of the biggest strengths of the nightlife economy, Annie and I who run Night Watch agree, is about focussing on the nighttime industry being a family. One of the things that Bristol does best out of many places in the world especially England, is that we work together as an industry. It’s cooperation not competition. Many cities, when you look at London or others, there’s this still adversarial system between regulation authorities and businesses, and within the businesses themselves. The biggest secret of it is: If we work together, lobbying-wise business-wise, we are so much better off. And that’s what today’s event really exemplifies.”

More From Nightlife Unscripted

Much needs to be done across the whole scope of the nightlife economy. Learn more about the other opinions and motivations from night time industry leaders here

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