The UK’s cultural nightlife sector has lost around 86,000 jobs since the pandemic hit, according to new data.
A new report commissioned by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which represents more than 1,200 members including nightclubs, bars, and casinos, said the sector was “ravaged” by the pandemic and the restrictions enforced from last March.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the NTIA, said the findings come at a pressing time for the sector as it moves towards the busy Christmas period.
He said it was pivotal that no further restrictions return to the sector—such as vaccine passports—and called for financial support from the chancellor.
“It’s timely because at this moment, governments in Scotland and Wales are pressing ahead with chaotic vaccine passport plans, and the UK government refuses to rule out their use in England,” he said.
“It is the worst possible time to introduce vaccine passports, which will further damage a sector essential to the economic recovery.”
Cultural nightlife covers live music, clubbing, dance music, events, and festivals.
The NTIA said the UK’s nightlife industry overall represented around 1.6 percent of GDP—or £36.4 billion ($49.5 billion)—in 2019.
The trade body has called on the government to support the sector in next month’s Budget by extending the current lower rate of VAT and promising not to raise alcohol duties.
Hospitality firms benefited from a reduction to 5 percent of VAT on food, soft drinks, accommodation, theatre tickets, and other items during the pandemic.
The tax rate increased to 12.5 percent earlier this month as part of plans to return VAT to its previous rate of 20 percent at the start of May next year.
Fellow trade groups including UKHospitality have also called for the current VAT rate to be extended for the long term to aid the beleaguered sector in the Budget announcement later this month.
Kill said: “It is crucial the chancellor use the upcoming Budget to support this beleaguered sector. We are calling for him to extend the 12.5 percent rate of VAT on hospitality until 2024, include door sales in that reduced rate of VAT, because the present system punishes nightclubs that rely on door sales rather than selling tickets, and for him to ensure there are no increases in alcohol duties. Our sector really cannot afford any additional burdens.”
In the report, Christian Wakeford, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Night-time Economy and Conservative MP, said, “As we look to rebuild from the devastation of the pandemic, we must not leave this vital sector behind.”
By Henry Saker-Clark