11th May 2021
Dear First Minister
We write as representatives of the Night Time Economy across Wales on a matter of the utmost urgency for the future of our sector, its businesses and the vast numbers of employees and freelancers who work both directly and within the supply chain.
We congratulate you on the forming of a new administration following the elections on May 6th, and we appreciate that tackling the Covid pandemic must be the top priority given we are still in the grips of this unprecedented crisis. We are urging you to include as part of this focus the need to take steps to ensure a sustainable and thriving Night Time Economy sector as restrictions continue to ease.
We are asking that you take the opportunity, starting with your review of the coronavirus restrictions due this Friday, to:
- Provide an indicative date for when nightclubs, entertainment-led, and late-night venues will be able to reopen without restrictions. This would give businesses that have been closed for 12 months hope but more importantly the ability to take positive planning and financial decisions. Under the alert levels as described in the current ‘control plan’, these businesses have no hope for reopening other than for test events in the lowest alert level. Night Time Economy businesses need to know when they will be able to reopen without social distancing restrictions, including the two-metre rule. Our industry has been worried to hear that social distancing may be in place for the rest of 2021. You also described the June 21st date outlined for England by the Prime Minister as “fanciful”. Without passing judgment on the merits of these different approaches, we would say that more clarity about when there will be no restrictions is urgently needed. We would stress the importance for our sector of knowing when they will be able to operate without or with minimal restrictions and take deliberate decisions about staffing, debt and investment now, as night time economy businesses in England are currently doing.
- Update the alert levels so there is consistency across restrictions on group numbers for indoor and outdoor settings, rather than the current policy of groups of 6 from 6 households outdoors, but only groups of 4 from 4 households indoors. This discrepancy will have a serious impact on the ability of the indoor hospitality businesses we represent to trade anything even remotely resembling profitability.
- Similarly, update the alert levels so that they do not punish businesses which have amplified sound and music as the core of their offering. The current guidance states: “Loud noises, which will require people to raise their voices or shout and therefore increase aerosol spread, must be avoided”. This has the effect of preventing nightclubs, entertainment-led, and late night venues from the ability trade in any meaningful way, despite having these businesses being able to demonstrate a high skill level in regards to crowd control, RAs, security and track and trace provision.
- Provide additional financial support for the Night Time Economy. Welsh Government support initiatives to date have been neither sufficient nor comprehensive enough to prevent many businesses in the sector falling into significant debt. The capacity of these small businesses to obtain further borrowings has now been largely exhausted, and they will face further difficulties as the furlough and self-employment support schemes are wound down. This new administration must take the opportunity to produce further economic support commensurate with the scale of the challenges still facing Night Time Economy businesses.
We are afraid to say that in the absence of the above intervention it is clear what will happen to the rich tapestry that is Welsh nightlife. Without either a clear path to unrestricted opening, or extended and enhanced financial support, the Welsh Government is condemning thousands of businesses in our sector, most of them SMEs carefully nurtured over years, to bankruptcy with all the human, economic, cultural and social consequences that will entail.
Our sector and the people we employ deserve better than this. We implore you to take the opportunity this Friday for your administration to chart a new course and save the Welsh Night Time Economy. We stand ready to work with you to avoid our sector’s Armageddon!
- Michael Kill – CEO NTIA UK
- Gary Lulham – Chairperson Swansea Licensing Forum
- Nick Newman – Chairperson Cardiff Licensing Forum
- Ben Newby Operations Director MJR TEG
- Jonathan Swaine – CEO Grosvenor Casino & Bingo
- Peter Marks CEO – Rekom
- Alan Brayley Chairperson – Swansea Bay Business Club