Business News Legal Live Business Top Stories

Night-time industries threaten legal action if COVID restrictions are extended beyond mid-July

By | Published on Friday 18 June 2021


Promoter and Greater Manchester Night Time Economy Advisor Sacha Lord has written to British Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson threatening legal action if the UK government further pushes back the lifting of COVID restrictions beyond 19 Jul. Backed by the Night Time Industries Association and a plethora of entertainment, hospitality and event companies, the letter also calls for the extension of current COVID support measures given the four week delay in allowing live entertainment and night-time businesses to properly re-open.

Johnson confirmed on Monday that the remaining COVID restrictions in force in England would not now be lifted on 21 Jun, as had originally been planned. The delay – caused by concerns regarding the new delta variant of the coronavirus – means that the full capacity gigs, concerts and club nights that everyone hoped could resume on Monday will now not start up again until mid-July.

In a statement yesterday, the NTIA reiterated that “the change to the [COVID] roadmap came as a bitter blow to the sectors who were preparing to reopen fully on 21 Jun. The hospitality sector in particular is expected to lose £3 billion over the course of the four-week delay. Reports show the sector has already lost £87 billion over the past year and has accounted for a third of job losses during the pandemic”.

The new letter put together by Lord addresses Johnson, and states: “We wish to put you on notice that Mr Lord and the representatives with whom he is in discussion are jointly considering taking legal action to challenge the government, should the easing of restrictions fail to take place on 19 Jul as promised. All of these industries have suffered enormously due to the repeated closures and reopenings, the ongoing lack of certainty, draconian social distancing measures and the illogical rules implemented and then removed, as areas have grappled with the constantly changing tier systems, and the local and national lockdowns”.

“The restrictions with which these businesses have had to comply have often been entirely illogical and arbitrary in nature, and demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of how their various sectors function”, the letter goes on. “It has been impossible for the affected sectors to operate anywhere near their pre-COVID levels, and for each day that the COVID restrictions remain in place, sectors such as hospitality continue to suffer enormous losses. The treatment of these sectors’ employees and business owners is deplorable and cannot continue. Industries such as hospitality, events, exhibitions and travel simply cannot endure further hardship”.

Since it became clear that the 21 Jun restart date would be pushed back, reps for the live entertainment and night-time sectors have been calling for the planned reductions of COVID support due to begin on 1 Jul to also be postponed.

Rules introduced early on in the pandemic that provide protections to commercial tenants who are behind on rent payments – which were also due to expire at the end of this month – have now been extended through to March 2022. However, plans to reduce the financial support provided by government on 1 Jul have not yet been pushed back.

Lord himself – who has previously taken on the government over other arbitrary COVID restrictions, like the 10pm curfew that was in force for a time – says: “As of the end of the month, we’ll not only see a 10% increase in furlough contributions, but the relief rate for hospitality drops from 100% to 66%. Factor in that huge parts of the nightlife sector are not even open yet, and we have a clear and inevitable crisis about to take place. We demand absolute confirmation we will reopen on the 19 Jul and we need urgent financial support to give businesses the best possible chance to survive until then”.

Meanwhile, NTIA boss Michael Kill adds: “The eleventh hour delay to reopening announced by the Prime Minister on Monday was yet another devastating blow to nightlife businesses, and the government then rubbed salt into the wounds by indicating that support programmes like furlough and business rates relief would not be extended. Our sector simply cannot countenance another delay. That is why today – along with a number of trade bodies and businesses from other affected sectors – we are putting the government on notice that we intend to take legal action should they deviate from the extended roadmap with full reopening on 19 Jul”.