Nightclub owners across the UK are appealing to the government to allow them to reopen and save more than a million jobs reliant on the industry.
Members of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) are set to meet ministers to discuss the prolonged closure of the industry, arguing that venues can be made COVID-19 safe.
The body wants clubs to reopen, like bars have been, or have access to a coronavirus financial package to support the industry’s 1.3 million employees.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the NTIA, says there is a general “misconception” in government that clubs are cramped, sweaty venues.
“I think that misconception is 20 years old,” he says. “It’s a very different environment now in terms of nightclubs, bars, restaurants, etc. I think that misconception, that myth, has led to us somewhat being excluded to a point.”
Russell Quelch, head of operations at Deltic Group, which owns 53 UK clubs, argues nightclubs are already well-equipped to safely reopen.
“100% there’s a way,” he says. “What you notice at the moment around the cities is it gets to around 11pm and people are lost as to where to go. They sit in the bars and they’re kind of looking for that late-night dancefloor experience.”
He adds: “We have controlled capacities. We have a lot of security staff on premises so we can manage people coming in – whether that’s through ID, track and trace, temperature checks, searching and numbers of people in each room.
“It’s something we feel we can risk assess at each venue and move on to allow us to get back to trade.”
Nightclubs are feeder businesses, with those attending often heading to other bars and restaurants on the same night – boosting local economies.
The night-time industry in the UK is worth around £66bn, according to the NTIA.
The association has published a report with the Institute of Occupational Medicine, outlining ways that nightclubs can return safely.
- Operating nightclubs at 75% capacity would allow for social distancing to be possible
- Mechanical ventilation in clubs means fresh air can be pumped in up to 25 times an hour
- Established ID check systems on the door mean track and trace would be easy to implement
While nightclubs wait for news – some are adapting in order to survive.
Lakota Nightclub in Bristol was one of the first venues in the country to organise sell-out DJ sets in its car park.
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Clubbers book tables of six and are not allowed to mix with other groups, or dance.
Managing director James Haggart says they’ve arranged outdoor events right up to New Year’s Eve.
“I don’t think clubbing has died as we know it – I think it’ll be back, but it’ll be a while.
“This for me is the next best option for the moment. You can do a little bit of dancing while you’re sat down, but that’s as far as it goes at the moment.”
A government spokesperson said: “We know this is an incredibly difficult time for nightclubs, but they will need to remain closed for now in line with current scientific advice to control the virus.
“Throughout the pandemic, nightclubs have access to the government’s unprecedented package of support to help businesses, which includes business rates relief, tax deferrals, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and billions paid in loans and grants.”