Will rail strikes affect nightclubs?

The resounding answer to this question is, yes.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls outlined the sheer scale of the potential damage in a letter to Transport Secretary Mark Harper. Analysis shows strike days will cost the sector £1.5 billion. This disruption is similar financially to that caused by COVID’s Omicron variant last year.

This Christmas, around 40,000 rail workers across Network Rail and other train companies are expected to walk out. Strike days will include 48 hour walkouts on the lead up to Christmas, December 16th – 18th, and then bans on overtime and walkouts leading to reduce rail times from Christmas Eve up to New Years. More RMT 48-hour strikes are expected in January, January 3rd – 4th and 6th – 7th.

The rail strikes will take place on potentially the most profitable days of the year for the British high street, and this significant disruption to hospitality comes at a terrible time for the nightlife industry. Numbers of nightclub businesses have dropped significantly – 9.4% since March 2020; says the Ordance Survey. There were almost 150 fewer nightclubs post-pandemic – that’s a fall of one in 10! Only second to department stores, following Debenhams’ closure and the collapse of Arcadia.

While many establishments such as tattoo studios and takeaways have made a recent climb, the Christmas period was the nightclub industry’s chance for a visible revival. The first undisrupted festive period since the pandemic, will now be… disrupted. The Christmas walkout will cause “phenomenal damage” warn the NTIA – with Sacha Lord promising more pubs, clubs and restaurants will be forced to shutdown if the rail negotiations are not solved soon.

In response, an open letter has been delivered to the RMT union, Network Rail and all negotiating parties in the rail strike dispute. The strong words come from a collective body on behalf of British hospitality, including the British Beer and Pub Association, British Institute of Innkeeping, Night Time Industries Association, Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street and the Association of Town and City Management.

Here’s what they had to say…

“We are writing to you in the interests of the UK’s towns and cities, and the hospitality businesses and their hard-working teams that help them to thrive both socially and economically. We are urging you with a singular voice to come together to reach a settlement so businesses and communities can operate freely in this most critical of trading periods.

For the first time in three years hospitality businesses across the country were preparing for a normal festive trading period, a period that is usually the busiest of the year for our industry and sees them through the quieter months that follow. Despite the cost-of-living crisis, and multiple other challenges, pubs, restaurants, bars and hotels were hoping for a boost after ongoing disruption to trading caused by the pandemic. However, this latest round of strikes is set to be incredibly damaging to the hospitality sector. December is the busiest month of the year for UK pubs in which they earn a significant portion of their annual takings – equivalent to £2.3bn for the month and £582m across the industry in the week of the proposed strikes themselves.

It is not our wish to assign blame or responsibility in this dispute but the longer we go without a resolution the more uncertainty and damage builds for businesses and their staff, with cancellations already being made and people up and down the country wondering whether they will be able to get to work, or have to miss out on hours and tips that would support them during the Christmas period.

The last three years have been a monumental struggle for the hospitality industry and this winter was already set to be the toughest yet. The prospect of strikes in such a critical phase of trading only exacerbates this. Make no mistake – businesses will be forced to close their doors as a result of this and for some it may be the last time they do so. We urge you in the strongest terms to come to a settlement as soon as possible.”

Yours sincerely,

Emma McClarkin OBE, Chief Executive, British Beer & Pub Association
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands
Steve Alton, Chief Executive, British Institute of Innkeeping
Michael Kill, Chief Executive, Night Time Industries Association
Ojay McDonald, Chief Executive, Association of Town and City Management

How can Nightclubs save money?

In light of recent strike action, nightclubs need to do all they can to preserve their cash reserve and keep costs down. The cost of living crisis will hit businesses hard, and to stay open through the potentially very profitable winter period, nightlcubs should address their energy spend.

At NDML, as part of our mission to protect venues, and in partnership with the NTIA, we have pulled together an explainer document on how clubs can find solutions to the energy crisis and try to save money.

But as with all finances of your nightclub, a broker with expertise in the industry will be able to provide advise. Contact NDML today to talk to an epxert who understand your nightlife business.