The Music Venue Trust, a charitable organisation dedicated to securing the existence of public music venues across the U.K., has warned that the Government’s ‘Plan B’ measures represent a financial hammer blow, reporting that the industry has been put “back on red alert”. Likewise, the Night Time Industries Association, a trade union which represent nightclubs as well as live music venues, have expressed concern that the vaccine passport scheme, while not mandating that attendees be jabbed, will prove too much of a logistical, expensive, and time-consuming requirement. Complete Music Update has the story.
Other critics of the scheme are more concerned with logistical matters, in that they question how effective Covid Passport checks really are in restricting the spread of the virus, given the impact the scheme will have on affected businesses, in terms of instigating the checks and likely lost business.
That’s the position taken by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which has repeatedly warned that forced Covid Passport checks will put a big strain on clubs and venues that are already struggling financially after nearly 18 months in partial or complete shutdown.
And, the NTIA argues, that has already been seen in Scotland and Wales, where Covid Passport schemes are already in force.
The trade group’s CEO Michael Kill said last night: “We are disappointed that MPs have today voted into law Covid Passports for nightclubs. The NTIA have consistently opposed their introduction due to the many logistical challenges they pose for night time economy businesses, and what we have seen in Scotland and Wales where they have dampened trade by 30% and 26% respectively”.
“It is very disappointing that, after flip flopping on the issue twice, the Government have decided to press ahead with the plans despite no evidence of their impact on transmission of the virus”, he added. “This is a slippery path we are going down. I would urge the government to listen to its backbenchers now – this far and no further”.
In addition to the specific new rules, representatives for the live music sector are also stressing that the rushed and confused communications that have been coming out of Government since the Omicron variant started to spread are causing as much – or possibly more – damage as the new regulations.
Not all venues in England will have to check Covid Passports. Although any venue or event classified as a nightclub will have to check for vaccine certificates and Covid tests, for gig venues the requirement kicks in at a 500 capacity for unseated venues and 10,000 for seated venues.
And, of course, some gig venues have already been requesting that customers show proof of vaccine or a negative Covid test since re-opening earlier this year.
But even those venues not directly affected by the new Covid Passport rule are reporting a significant downturn in business since Government communications began around omicron, which – of course – has come during a crucial time of the year for venues and night-time businesses.
Based on a survey of the Music Venues Alliance, the Music Venue Trust (MVT) reports that: “A catastrophic drop in attendance, advance ticket sales and spend per head has hit grassroots music venues since the Government announced the implementation of the ‘Plan B’ restrictions last Wednesday, placing the entire sector back on red alert for the risk of permanent closures”.
“Losses across the sector in this first week of this new phase of the Covid crisis hit nearly £2 million”, it adds, “with 86% of grassroots music venues reporting negative impacts and 61% having to cancel at least one event in the second week of December”.
Although artists – or a member of their crew – testing positive for Covid are behind just over a third of those cancellations, people cancelling private hire bookings and poor ticket sales – both as a result of renewed Covid concerns – were responsible for 31.13% and 23.6% of cancellations respectively.
Commenting on the findings of its latest survey of venues, MVT’s Beverley Whitrick says: “This is the busiest time of the year for grassroots music venues, representing more than 20% of their annual income being raised during the party season”.
“Rapid declines in attendance at this time of year represent an exponential threat to the whole sector”, she adds, “and losses of this magnitude cannot be sustained without throwing hundreds of music venues into crisis mode and at risk of permanent closure. A ‘no show’ isn’t just lost ticket income, it’s lost bar take and excess staff costs”.
Worth reading in full.