After yesterday’s announcement from national government that any further easing of restrictions will be delayed by at least four weeks, Carly Heath, Bristol’s Night Time Economy Advisor, has written to Paul Scully MP, Minister for Small Business.
Re: Additional support for the Night Time Economy (NTE)
I am writing in light of yesterday’s announcement confirming a delay to easing of Coronavirus restrictions and following conversations with trade bodies, businesses and workers within the NTE.
Our vibrant nightlife is at the beating heart of what it means to be a Bristolian. The city doesn’t stop at 6pm. The night is where we come together as a community, it’s where the soul of our city gets to flourish.
I appreciate that the Delta variant of the virus has presented fresh challenges for the government and that public health must remain a priority. We will support measures taken to keep the situation under control, however, extending restrictions without the necessary support risks jeopardising the livelihoods, relationships and mental health of those working in the NTE.
Current business support has kept many businesses afloat in the past year and it must be continued until restrictions are lifted.
Venue owners and events organisers have been planning towards the 21st June. In order to be ready for potential reopening, they have bought in stock and hired staff. These are, in many cases, costs that cannot be recouped.
Many skilled workers have left the sector in the past 16 months and businesses are now facing huge staff shortages as a result. Staff have been hired and trained in anticipation for re-opening, and there are questions marks over whether these staff will be eligible for furlough. This means many new employees will be let go and businesses will have to go through the process all over again, or face the prospect of paying to keep staff on their books for the anticipated four weeks, with no certainty that the restrictions will be relaxed then either.
UK Hospitality estimate that 300,000 jobs are at risk in light of yesterday’s announcement and that a one-month delay to restrictions lifting will cost the sector around £3 billion in sales. A survey of 300 NTE businesses by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) suggests 1 in 4 businesses will not survive longer than one month without further Government support, and 50% will last no longer than two months.
In Bristol, we have 1,127 NTE premises. 39 music venues & nightclubs, 784 hospitality venues, 5 theatres, 52 hotels and 13 breweries. Nearly all venues have reopening events scheduled. Many have been sold out for months. A number of major events and festivals are now facing cancellation or further postponement, threatening the viability of those businesses and the supply chains they rely on.
At least 32,000 jobs in the city are reliant on night-time cultural and leisure activities. The wider NTE constitutes 91,620 employees, or 30% of Bristol jobs.
In coming weeks, businesses are facing quarterly rent payments, the end on the ban on commercial rent evictions and further contributions to furlough costs – but these same businesses cannot bring in revenue if they are unable to trade or profit.
To protect workers, businesses and the entire NTE ecosystem, we therefore ask that the government:
- Extends the current business support package, including:
- Extension of VAT reduction
- Extension of the rent moratorium
- Extension of rates relief
- Implements a sector-specific furlough scheme for this sector, to provide flexibility that will prevent the mass firing of newly employed staff.
- Provides the sector with certainty that should restrictions be extended, support will be extended to match.
- Implements a government backed insurance scheme for events and festivals to enable them to plan with confidence.
- Ensures there is adequate mental health and debt support services for those working in the sector – as a local authority, we will be using our communication channels to get information out on available support. People are in desperate situations.
We understand the rationale for delaying re-opening, but the impact of doing so without government support is cutting the lifeblood to our social heartbeat. The unthinkable consequences as a result of the government’s decision to delay the roadmap threatens a very real damage to our communities and our cultural life.
I look forward to your response on this matter. There is only so much longer that the sector can survive.
Night Time Economy Advisor
City Office, Bristol City Council