Live Music Venues Beset by Regulations – and Not Just Ones Imposed by the Government

Audiences at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club won’t be dancing cheek to cheek anytime soon, with the famous London venue having introduced a raft of “Covid protocols” (some already required by the Government, others not), including mask-wearing, facial thermometers and protective screens. Here’s a list of new rules from their website.

  • Face coverings must be worn when entering and leaving the venue or anytime you are not seated. Staff will wear face coverings.
  • Upon entering the club there will be an optional sanitiser station and a facial thermometer which you will be asked to use;
  • All guests must scan the Track and Trace QR Poster on arrival at the club.
  • We have removed entrance furniture to ease congestion in and out of the venue;
  • We have increased our cleaning system using medical grade sanitiser on all surfaces;
  • We politely ask customers not to bring excessive baggage that needs to be checked into the cloakroom to ease congestion upon entering and leaving the club;
  • Increased hand washing of staff and staff health declarations;
  • We have gone cashless. Your PDQ machine will be cleaned between each use;
  • We have reduced capacity to 50% to allow for spacing between guests;
  • We have adapted our air conditioning system to ensure there is 100% fresh air being circulated in the club;
  • We have installed some protective screens in certain areas.

As if this wasn’t enough, the Club points out that these are “just a few” of the measures which it has introduced to ensure the safety of its staff, musicians and audience members. Incredibly, it says that this can all be done while “maintaining the atmosphere of the club”. Yeah, right!

If all (or most) live entertainment venues return to action in this manner, their post-lockdown recoveries could well be short-lived.

Boris Says He Wants to Scrap the “One-Metre Plus” Rule in Pubs on June 21st

Boris Johnson has told Conservative MPs that he would like to scrap the “one-metre plus” rule in hospitality settings when the last step of the “roadmap” out of lockdown is reached on June 21st. Doing so would help businesses damaged by lockdown to get back on their feet, the Prime Minister said. The MailOnline has the story.

The Prime Minister said eliminating the measure was the “single biggest difference” the Government could bring about in order to get Britain’s pubs back into action, and he was eager for the rule to be scrapped by June 21st…

As long as the rule is in force, pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and other hospitality businesses remain financially unviable, having to legally keep customers separated while using their premises, industry leaders have warned. 

Many have had to keep their doors closed throughout the coronavirus crisis. 

Britain’s daily Covid deaths have fallen by more than a third in a week as seven more victims and 2,874 positive tests were recorded. Yesterday’s infections were up slightly on the 2,657 last Thursday, a rise of about eight per cent, but the national case rate has remained stable since April.

More than 37 million people have now received one vaccine injection – the equivalent of more than 70% of all adults – and 21.2 million are fully inoculated.  

But the rise of the Indian Covid variant had sparked concerns that plans to end social distancing measures were in jeopardy, but on Wednesday Mr Johnson told the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs he was confident about abolishing the one-metre plus rule next month.  

He said: “We are hopeful we can do that at the end of the road map.” But Mr Johnson added that it depends on figures “continuing in the right direction”…

One MP who was at the 1922 meeting said: “[Boris] seemed very upbeat about removing the one-metre-plus rule next month.”

Worth reading in full.

Six Pubs Have Closed Every Week during Lockdowns

The reopening of indoor hospitality earlier this week came too late for many businesses as data reveals that six pubs have closed every week during Government-imposed lockdowns. Most have either been demolished or converted into homes and offices. The MailOnline has the story.

Figures released today showed 384 pubs have closed permanently during the national and tiered local restrictions over the past 14 months.

The number of locals is down by one per cent from 40,886 to 40,502, according to research by consultants Altus Group…

West Northamptonshire Council granted permission to turn The Romany in Kingsley, Northampton, into 11 flats after its closure during the first lockdown last year.

And The Majors Arms in Widnes, Cheshire, was sold last October, with its new owners requesting permission from Halton Council to turn it into a shop.

The Crobar in Soho, central London, previously said it would be unable to reopen after struggling to pay rent during the pandemic, but is now planning to resume business at a new venue after fundraising over £100,000. 

The study found more pubs were lost in the South East than other parts of the U.K., with 62 demolished or converted for alternative use during the pandemic.

The West Midlands, Wales, North West and East of England each saw more than 40 pubs closed during the same 14-month spell.

Pubs that disappeared have either been demolished or converted into other uses such as homes or offices, said Altus.

Worth reading in full.

A Tenth of Britain’s Restaurants Lost During Lockdown

Restaurants will be able to reopen for indoor service from Monday, but only if lockdown hasn’t already forced them to close for good. There are now 9.7% fewer restaurants – and 19.% fewer “casual dining venues” – across Britain than in March 2020, according to new research. BBC News has the story.

The data in the latest Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners suggests that while many pubs and bars have also struggled to survive the pandemic, it is restaurants that have fared worst…

CGA and AlixPartners measured the impact of the last 13 months on pubs and restaurants that hold a licence to serve alcohol. 

Looking at the net number of venues, once all closures and new openings were taken into account, they found pubs across Britain fared slightly better than the restaurant sector.

The number of pubs serving food has fallen by 4.2%. Bars and pubs that only serve drinks fell by 5.2%. 

But on top of the near-20% fall in casual dining outlets, bar-restaurants, which make up a smaller part of the overall dining market, fell by 9.6%. 

General restaurants, which are the largest dining out category, are down 10.2%.

While restaurants that belong to larger chains were sometimes able to fall back on the group financially, or negotiate agreements with landlords across the business, independent operators have found it harder to survive.

The restaurant sector was already shrinking before the pandemic, but the net losses between 2017 and 2019 were between 0.9% and 2.2% a year, according to CGA AlixPartners data.

Many of those earlier losses were in crowded sectors such as burger bars. But losses over the past year have included businesses with otherwise promising futures.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The “BBC [is] doing its usual conflation trick” in reporting that restaurants were lost because of the pandemic rather than because of lockdowns, says Luke Johnson.

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Hails “Day of Freedom” as Restrictions Are Partially Eased – but Hotels, Pubs and Restaurants Will Remain Closed Until June

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has branded Monday a “day of hope and freedom” following the partial easing of lockdown restrictions.

A number of businesses have been able to resume service. But much of Ireland’s society – including hotels, pubs and restaurants – will remain closed until June at the earliest. BBC News has the story.

The Republic had been at the highest level of restrictions – level five – since Christmas.

But close-contact services, such as hairdressers, are now reopening and click-and-collect retail has resumed.

People are now also able to travel across the country.

They can move outside their own county for the first time in more than four months. Sports training can also resume.

Mr Varadkar told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme on Monday that 12,000 businesses were due to reopen this week and 100,000 people could return to work.

He said the current financial support for businesses would be in place until the end of June…

The easing of restrictions in the Republic of Ireland is part of a phased relaxation of the country’s strict Covid lockdown announced by Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin in April.

Libraries, museums, galleries and other cultural attractions are also opening…

The measures permit people to travel for non-essential journeys outside their county and up to 50 people can attend weddings, funerals and other religious services.

Three households, or a group of six people, can meet outdoors, including in private gardens, and a vaccinated household can meet an unvaccinated one indoors.

Some dates have been laid out for when (“all being well”!) lockdown restrictions will further ease.

From May 17th, all non-essential shops in the Republic of Ireland can reopen to customers.

From June 2nd, hotels, guest houses and self-catering accommodation will be permitted to trade.

All pubs, regardless of whether they serve food, along with restaurants can open for outdoor service on June 7th.

The summer relaxation is premised on containing new variants and accelerating a vaccination programme that is well behind Northern Ireland’s.

Worth reading in full.

Pubs Close Their Beer Gardens as Poor Weather Keeps Punters Away

Profits at pubs that have access to outdoor space have – as expected – been dampened by poor weather. A triple whammy of heavy rain, high winds and low temperatures has kept pub-goers away from exposed beer gardens today. MailOnline has more.

The Environment Agency had two flood alerts in place for England today – one for the River Sow and River Penk in Stafford, and the other covering the River Burn from Waterden to Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk.

The Met Office said parts of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales could see five inches of rain between 6am today and midnight tonight, while BBC Weather said wind gusts in County Antrim reached 59mph this morning.

Pubs across England – such as in North Staffordshire and the West Midlands – have been forced to close temporarily because of the weather, and not for the first time. A publican at The Fox in Shipley told the Express and Star that ongoing Covid rules are “really affecting the business”.

I would say the rain has stopped people from coming out.

If people are dining and it rains they’ve got nowhere to go because we can’t let them go inside because of Covid rules and so it’s really affected the business.

We’ve had to close and we’re only doing short days, too. We didn’t open on bank holiday Monday because of the weather and it’s affected us big time…

We made a decision to close on the bank holiday last Thursday when we saw the weather forecast.

We thought it’s silly staffing the place knowing full-well what was coming.

The weather is expected to improve a little tomorrow, but the uncertainty caused by Covid regulations is keeping many publicans on edge – highlighting the importance of legal challenges against the delayed reopening of indoor hospitality.

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

Bars and Nightclubs to Reopen in Hong Kong – But Only For Those Who Have Been Vaccinated Against Covid

Hong Kong is moving ahead with a vaccine passport scheme under which only those who have been vaccinated against Covid and who use a Government mobile phone app will be able to go to bars and nightclubs when they reopen on Thursday. All staff will also be required to have received at least one dose of a vaccine. The scheme will, according to a Government official, enable life in Hong Kong to “return to normal” – despite breaking from all that has previously been considered “normal”. Reuters has the story.

Hong Kong will reopen bars and nightclubs from April 29th for people who have been vaccinated and who use a Government mobile phone application, the Asian financial hub’s Health Secretary said on Tuesday.

Sophia Chan told a press briefing the measures extended to bathhouses and karaoke lounges and would enable the venues to stay open until 2 am. All staff and customers must have received at least one vaccine dose for the venue to be operational and they must operate at half capacity, she said.

“We all hope life can return to normal but we need to allow some time for everyone to adapt to these new measures,” Chan said.

The former British colony has recorded over 11,700 total coronavirus cases, far lower than other developed cities…

Chan’s announcement comes as authorities try to incentivise residents to get vaccinated with only around 11% of the city’s 7.5 million population having received their first vaccine dose.

The take up of vaccines has been sluggish since the scheme began in the Chinese special administrative region in February due to a lack of confidence in China’s Sinovac vaccine and fears of adverse reactions.

Hong Kong began vaccinating residents with doses from Sinovac in February and started offering a vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech in March.

Under the new scheme, restaurant-goers who have not been vaccinated will have to sit in designated areas, away from those who have received a vaccine.

Restaurants will set up different areas for customers who are not vaccinated and for those who choose to write their contact details down on paper rather than registering with the government app. This segment will only be allowed to dine up to four people to a table [whereas the “vaccinated zone” will be permitted to dine up to six customers per table].

Worth reading in full.

Wales Will be Reopening Ahead of Schedule – Based on Data, Not Dates

Welsh hospitality business will soon be able to reopen – outdoors from April 26th and indoors from May 17th – as Mark Drakeford has accelerated Wales’s reopening schedule. The Telegraph has the story.

Pubs, restaurants, cafes and other hospitality businesses will be allowed to offer outdoor service again from Monday, April 26th, as restrictions are eased further in Wales. 

In addition, from April 24th, six people from six households will be able to meet outdoors, but meeting inside will not be allowed until May 3rd, when two households will be allowed to see each other indoors.

It comes as the reopening of gyms and leisure centres, and outdoor organised activities, has also been brought forward to May 3rd amid a drop in new Covid infections.

Indoor activities for children, indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults, such as exercise classes, and the reopening of community centres were also meant to happen on May 17th, but have been brought forward by two weeks.

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, also said indoor hospitality and all tourism accommodation can reopen from May 17th, subject to confirmation by the party that leads the Welsh Government following the Senedd election.

Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 5 Live that the improving Covid and vaccine situations in Wales meant an acceleration of the country’s exit from lockdown was possible.

The rates of coronavirus in Wales are now the lowest in the United Kingdom, our vaccination rates are the highest in the United Kingdom, and that has created some extra headroom for us to be able to continue what we’ve been doing now for quite a few cycles.

We continue to proceed in Wales in a cautious, step-by-step way. But the fact that we have these low rates is the product of that way of doing things.

It’s because we’ve done it in the way we have that we’re now able to accelerate some of the decisions because the prevalence of coronavirus has fallen to the lowest extent we’ve seen since the summer.

Boris Johnson, on the other hand, remains unconvinced that England’s unlock should be speeded up. Covid cases and hospitalisations continue to fall in England and the successful vaccine rollout means that 95% of the over-50s – that is, those who are most vulnerable to Covid – have been vaccinated. Despite this, ministers have suggested that the current level of lockdown could stay in place beyond May 17th.

The Telegraph’s report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Blower’s latest cartoon in the Telegraph demonstrates the foolishness of Boris and co sticking to dates not data.

Police Unable to Deal With Crowds Due to Outdoor Hospitality Rules

While bad weather at the beginning of last week hampered the reopening of outdoor hospitality in some parts of the country, many venues were blessed through the week with sunshine, bringing plenty of Brits out to visit pubs and restaurants for the first time since before Christmas. The rule that all customers must sit outdoors has led to large crowds gathering at makeshift beer gardens in city centres, making it difficult for police to enforce social distancing guidelines. The Telegraph has the story.

Covid rules forcing people to eat and drink outside pubs and restaurants have left police in an impossible position with officers unsure how to deal with large crowds…

In city centres across the country, closed off roads were transformed into makeshift party venues with bars and restaurants offering outdoor seating for customers.

But despite warnings that social distancing rules must be maintained, scenes in areas like Soho in central London suggested little notice was being taken of the law.

As the drink flowed, hundreds of revellers crowded together in the narrow streets, leaving police with the headache of trying to control the crowds.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation said yet again the Covid rules had placed frontline officers in a difficult situation.

He said: “We are facing a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation still, and Soho is a prime example. How on earth are we supposed to police that? 

“The local councils have made it easy for people to do pretty much what they want. The council is carrying out regular patrols and are calling the police if there are any major problems but in terms of making sure people stick to social distancing it is extremely difficult.”

John Apter, the National Chair of the Police Federation, said: “It is clear that alcohol and social distancing do not mix.”

The pub and restaurant trade has also criticised the outdoor hospitality rules, insisting there is no evidence to maintain the ban on indoor venues.

The industry will find out this week if the High Court has granted permission to launch a Judicial Review over the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown.

A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association said: “All restrictions have to be removed by June 21st.”

“That is the date when we start our road back to profitability. For us we are holding on but we need the second half of this year to save the Great British Pub. That is it in a nutshell.”

Despite this plea, it seems increasingly unlikely that the Government will even stick to the date of the next phase of its “roadmap” out of lockdown – reopening indoor hospitality. Environment Minister George Eustice said on Sunday that it is still “too early to say” whether this unlocking can take place on May 17th because of the threat of new variants, despite the success of the vaccine rollout and the fact that Covid cases have fallen to a seven-month low in England.

The Telegraph’s report is worth reading in full.

Too Early to Tell If Hospitality Can Reopen On May 17th, Says Minister

It is still “too early to say” whether the reopening of indoor hospitality can take place on May 17th, according to the Environment Minister. George Eustice told Andrew Marr on the BBC that while Britain’s vaccine rollout is “on track” (with 10 million second doses expected to have been administered by the end of the weekend), the risk of Covid variants could delay the next step in the Government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown. He is quoted on the Guardian website:

Well, it is too early to say. But I think we are on track in the sense that we are on track with the rollout of the vaccination programme. We have now vaccinated everybody over the age of 50 and this week they are offering vaccinations as well to those under the age of 50, starting with the 45-to-59 year-olds – so that bit is on track.

But we are being a bit cautious here. So although we have now got 60% of the adult population vaccinated we do just have to keep a close eye on these variants of concern.

Also, see what the impacts are of the easements we have just made, the loosenings we have just made, before moving to the next stage.

He delivered a similar message to Sophy Ridge on Sky News:

The biggest threat to everything we’re doing at the moment is that at some point there will be a variant that manages to evade the vaccine or largely evade it, so it is high on our concerns which is why while the vaccine rollout has been incredibly successful with over 60% of the adult population now vaccinated, we continue to proceed with some caution as we come out of lockdown.

The impact of the partial easing of lockdown earlier this month has been tempered by the weather (of course!) and by the fact that a “large proportion” of hospitality businesses do not have access to sufficient outdoor space. Kate Nicholls, the Chief Executive of UK Hospitality, said that even those venues which were able to reopen outdoors “still aren’t going to break even… the best they are going to achieve outdoors is 20%”, highlighting the need to allow businesses to open fully – that is, indoors.

Imperial College’s Danny Altmann said on Friday that “we should be terribly concerned” about the emergence of the Indian Covid variant in Britain, which could “scupper” the “roadmap” out of lockdown – a statement which a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) says is “pessimistic“. The Evening Standard reported:

Imported coronavirus variants are unlikely to set lockdown easing back to “square one” because immunity from vaccines “won’t just disappear”, according to a key figure on the UK’s immunisation committee.

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI, said he expected a “gradual erosion” of vaccine protection as the virus evolves but not enough to “scupper” the Prime Minister’s roadmap, as one leading scientist had predicted.

Meanwhile, Covid cases have fallen to a seven-month low in England.