Catastrophic Impact Of Social Distancing On The Night-Time Economy

The Night Time Industries Association raises concerns over the impact of social distancing on the night time economy and events sector.

With the Government procrastinating over the future, the Night-time economy and events sector must act now and seek ways to adapt, diversify and remodel their businesses to survive during the lockdown. Ambiguous announcements on timelines and the consistent threats of social distancing remaining once lockdown has been lifted are placing pressure on many sectors.

The sector is built on social engagement and social distancing is an uncomfortable reality which will only lead to businesses becoming financially unviable in quick succession following the lift of government measures.  Reduction in a business capacity, enforced spacing, queue management, PPE, brings into question not only the viability, but whether this is something that can be managed in many spaces. Even before we account for the public perception of safety within our businesses.

Says NTIA CEO Michael Kill:“This goes beyond the current crisis; we must go further and use this experience to future proof businesses, bringing about a new normal, ensuring the economy is protected if this were to ever happen again. Lessons must be learned, and steps are taken to safeguard the future of the sector.”

Whilst the sector recognises the scale of the problems faced; it must be realised that some business models simply cannot adapt to some of the expected government measures. The balance between the required measures to safeguard public health against securing the protection of the economy is a hard line to draw.

Peter Marks –The Deltic Group, National Chain:“Socialising in most town centre hospitality venues does not work with social distancing. It won’t work practically, or economically. Think standing areas, toilets, corridors, staff, and what would happen to the fire capacity?  It is the same for pubs, bars, clubs, live music venues as well as most restaurants. It is not for us to determine when we should return to normal albeit most of our customers and staff are in the low risk categories. But what we need to know is that we have a long-term support package that includes furlough payments and a rent deal mechanism for forgiveness, not just building up debt to become a zombie company later.  That way we can all be ready to give people the social life that is important to so many, whatever their preference for escapism, enjoyment and a night out.  Without hospitality we merely live to work rather than work to live.”

Dan Deeks – Motion, Bristol:“Social distancing has had a dramatic effect on our industry. Not only in the now as trading has stopped, but for the future.  Confidence in going out will be low and spending from our customers will also be impacted due to economic effects.  Coming back from this will be very hard, the challenge now is difficult but for example 3 months after opening will be even more so when bills need to be paid.”

Says Paul Daly – Roadtrip & The Workshop Zigfrid Ltd, London:

“We operate in a very over rented property in Shoreditch and this rent has evolved on the basis that loads of people come together, tightly together, and let off steam to amazing British & global music.  My venue does not have the room to have only 50% or 30% of the customers in and survive the huge costs involved in keeping the lights on. I’m vastly experienced at what I do and automatically know that if the government throws us under the bus and demands that we open in the middle of this pandemic we will not survive.”

Peter Hunter – Botanical Garden, Liverpool: “There are changes and measures that will need to happen to industry to help it evolve in changing times.  There is an obvious need that these are mandated measures and balanced with support, as systems such as reduced capacity across many industry venues render the business incapable of surviving the next few months. There needs to be consultation held with people inside the industry that have the day to day operational experience to figure out suitable best practices.”

The Night-time economy remains optimistic for the future, if we all get this right, and engage at the right levels to effect sector-specific recommendations, a comprehensive re-engagement strategy can be developed, supported by an extended financial support provision, through furlough, grants and loans.

A new landscape for the sector is anticipated and preparations for measures due to be imposed by the Government to safeguard Public Health are under way.

Furthermore, there will be considerations around the impact of resourcing, licensing and supplier management as well as understanding change in market conditions and customer needs on a business by business basis.