Bleak outlook for nightclub bosses as Freedom Day delay is another blow to businesses

The move to delay lockdown has come as a huge setback to many businesses which had pinned their hopes on a full summer reopening to recoup some of the losses of the past year.

Planet Nightclub in Wolverhampton is among the hospitality businesses badly hit by Covid
Planet Nightclub in Wolverhampton is among the hospitality businesses badly hit by Covid

The decision to delay until July 19 has come as a huge blow to the hospitality sector in particular as it means capacity limits for pubs, restaurants, sporting events, theatres and cinemas stay in place.

Nightclubs, which had been desperately hoping to reopen their doors from Monday, will still be required to stay closed.

Michael Ansell, owner of Planet Nightclub in Wolverhampton, said he will have been closed for 66 weeks by June 21.

He said he had received around £45,000 in Government support, which was not enough to cover the £77,000 he will have spent on rent alone.

"We approached the council about doing table service but they said no as it's a nightclub," he said.

Michael Ansell owns Planet, which has been shut for 66 weeks

"I don't know where to turn, I've taken two massive loans out with the bank and I'm blowing through about £2,000 a week."

He said there must be "no more backtracking" on the new date to end restrictions, so nightclubs could "employ staff and work towards that".

James Stevens, 44, landlord at the Chapel House pub in Gornal, said: "Obviously from a business point of view it's saddening. We were hoping we would be able to get back to some kind of normality. You're not going to flick a switch and everyone comes back to the pub again. We're hoping as soon as possible we can get back to a normal level of trade.

"The implications of one step forward and two steps back are far worse. It's a double-edged sword. It's frustrating we are not going to be open fully but we are open, adhering to the restrictions and social distancing, and we're grateful for that.

"We're encouraging people to be cautious and not jeopardise what we've got. Rushing to do something now and come August it's back into a full lockdown, that would be far worse."

Black Country Chamber of Commerce chief executive Corin Crane said the delay meant it was now vital that support for businesses be extended.

Mr Crane said: "The decision to delay lifting all restrictions, although understandable with the rise in Covid cases of this latest variant, means that many businesses are on a cliff edge.

Black Country Chamber chief executive Corin Crane

“As Government support for businesses is ending or begins to wind down, it is vital that more help is given with the lockdown extension.

“Quarterly rents are due on June 23, the ban on commercial rent evictions ends on June 30, whilst employers will have to start contributing 10 per cent towards furlough costs and the 100 per cent business rates relief tapers off to 67 per cent, both on July 1; businesses will be are overburdened with debt.

“So, the decision to delay will make them heavily reliant on the Government to extend financial support and relief, including additional restriction grants, exclusion from furlough contributions, extension of loan repayment holiday for CBILS/BBS as well as business rates and VAT relief for the next 12 months, not forgetting the £2.6 billion in commercial rent debt left unresolved.

“Whilst the majority of people remain pragmatic, we are asking for flexibility for additional support for those businesses who remain badly impacted and consideration for those businesses who’s leaders and staff need to travel to negotiate new or existing contracts, to help ensure that the Black Country remains competitive across the world.

“Distressed industries cannot continue to be held in limbo as businesses are left to fall.”

Retailers have called on the Government to commit to scrapping its plan to reduce Business Rates Relief from the start of next month, and extend the tax holiday until next March instead.

Ross Bailey, CEO of retail space platform Appear Here, said: "By keeping social distancing requirements in place for pubs and restaurants and not allowing the night-time economy to fully reopen on June 21, footfall on our high streets will suffer, hitting independent retailers the hardest, just as spending is starting to pick up."

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