'Kick in the teeth': business owners react to roadmap delay

14 June 2021, 22:39 | Updated: 15 June 2021, 20:26

Business owners have spoken of their "frustration" as Covid measures could remain in place for another four weeks
Business owners have spoken of their "frustration" as Covid measures could remain in place for another four weeks. Picture: PA

By Daisy Stephens

Business owners have hit out at the government following a delay to the next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown.

Nightclub owners have described the delay in ending coronavirus restrictions as a "kick in the teeth".

The industry had geared up for a full reopening on 21 June, but Boris Johnson announced on Monday that rules would remain in place for up to another four weeks in England, meaning nightclubs must remain closed.

Adrian Swain, who oversees Brighton's PRYZM nightclub along with other venues in the south of England, said the delay to reopening was a "kick in the teeth" for the industry.

Mr Swain said: "It feels catastrophic for us to be honest because we have done so much work in the last four weeks preparing to open in full.

"We absolutely wanted a prescribed date - with the uncertainty and the ambiguity it's a really difficult one to plan for."

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Terry George, who owns Club Mission in Leeds, said the "frustrating" delay made it feel as though nightclubs were being "penalised", adding: "It just doesn't seem fair at all."

Mr George continued: "It makes me want to open a venue to perform marriages and say that we're having a wedding and get people in that way… [the government] tell us one thing and then three, four days later they change their mind and it all goes to pot.

“We just can't run a business this way.”

Theatres have also been hit hard by the announcement, with leading impresarios saying the delay is “catastrophic”.

In a statement, Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire of Trafalgar Entertainment - who have two West End productions due to start next month – said: "This delay is yet another bungle from a government that wouldn't be given a single star in a review of its performance.

“The confusion and muddled messages are reminiscent of a West End farce."

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They argued the government's own data shows a trip to the theatre is less dangerous than going to the pub, restaurant or supermarket and stressed the sector's importance to public life.

They added: "During the pandemic, this government has been fond of three-word slogans. Hands, Face, Space. Build back better. Today we ask them to consider a few more. Open our theatres. Enough is enough. Let audiences in."

Theatres will not be able to open at full capacity until 19 July at the earliest, apart from some potential pilot events
Theatres will not be able to open at full capacity until 19 July at the earliest, apart from some potential pilot events. Picture: PA

Representatives from the live music industry have also criticised the delay and appealed for more support from the government.

Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, the body that represents the UK live music industry, said he was “devastated” that the government had not set out a “clear path” to restart the live music industry.

"The government has been quick to talk up the success of the vaccine rollout, but other countries are now ahead of us in opening up full capacity events with simple Covid certification processes, including the Netherlands, Belgium and the US,” said Mr Parmley.

"The government must also provide urgent emergency financial support to those impacted by today's decision."

Pub bosses have warned that the four-week delay to lifting coronavirus restrictions will cost the sector £400 million.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), said the delay was "hard for our sector to stomach".

She said: "The delay will cost our pubs £400 million for this period alone, but inevitably much more as confidence deteriorates and as a key part of the summer season is lost that is so critical to our sectors viability.

"Pubs and licensees are struggling to recover with the current restrictions they face and debts are accumulating.

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"Every week the current restrictions stay and uncertainty continues, the likelihood of pubs being lost forever increases.

"A full package of government support is now critical for our sector until it is guaranteed to open fully without any restrictions."

Restrictions in pubs will not be lifted as planned
Restrictions in pubs will not be lifted as planned. Picture: PA

The government also confirmed on Monday that it will not further extend furlough and other financial support schemes despite the delay.

The move has been criticised by unions, with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) saying that the delay was a big setback for many workers and businesses.

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General secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The government must step up and provide urgent targeted support for these industries.

“We cannot afford for more companies to go to the wall, taking good jobs with them.

"The chancellor also needs to announce now that he will extend furlough for as long as is needed, rather than cutting it off abruptly in three months' time.

"Working people need this certainty now - not a rollercoaster approach to protecting livelihoods."