Yesterday (12 July), it was confirmed nightclubs and other night-time economy businesses in England will finally be able to reopen next Monday (19 July), as the country moves to the last phase of its Coronavirus lockdown roadmap.
Almost all remaining Covid-19 restrictions will be removed, with the wearing of face coverings no longer compulsory; all social distancing measures scrapped; and hospitality businesses no longer required to collect customer details for track and trace.
The development should mark a tentative first step in the recovery of the night-time economy, much of which has been forced to remain closed since the start of the pandemic early last year.
“The decision to go ahead with reopening on the 19 July is the correct one," says Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, which represents 1,200 independent bars, clubs and live music venues across the UK.
"After 16 months of crippling restrictions, businesses in the night-time economy are ready to play our part in the safe reopening of society. [This] should mark the beginning of nightlife’s long journey to rebuild itself.
“There are some important hurdles ahead for our sector, including changes to the isolation rules which have the potential to throw the recovery off course, but for those businesses that have made it this far in the pandemic, I feel confident that the sense of community and togetherness the sector has shown to this point will help us overcome these challenges.”
In a boost for businesses ahead of unlocking, research from Rekom UK (formerly The Deltic Group, which operates 43 bars and clubs across the UK) reveals that the vast majority of people aged 18-30 plan to return to late night leisure venues.
Some 94.3% of 18-30 year-olds plan to head back to nightclubs, with more than a fifth (20.7%) looking to return as soon as possible, and over half planning to return within a month of reopening.
Furthermore, three quarters of respondents say they would happily adhere to any Government guidelines and measures if this ensured the reopening of, and continued opening, of the night-time economy.
Respondents do, however, anticipate a lower-than-average spend than before. Clubgoers expect to spend £65.49 on a night out once they are able to, a drop of 7% on the June 2019 average of £70.56.
“It is clear there is a high demand for nightclubs to reopen again and that young people, many of whom have been hit hard by Covid restrictions whilst at university or entering the job market, are excited to enjoy a night out after all this time," says Peter Marks, chief executive of Rekom UK.
"The report shows that consumers are keen to take a responsible approach and will take Covid-19 safety precautions into consideration when planning a night out. This shows more than ever that nightclubs can open both safely and responsibly in the current climate."
Concerns over 'vaccine passports'
While not mandatory at this stage, nightclubs and other event organisers have been advised to ask for proof that revellers have either had two jabs or tested negative for Covid.
Speaking at yesterday's Downing Street press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson encouraged businesses to ask for Covid-status certificates, more commonly known as 'vaccine passports'.
He said: “As a matter of social responsibility we’re urging nightclubs and other venues with large crowds to make use of the NHS Covid pass, which shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity as a means of entry.”
However, in written guidance published after the press conference, the Government said it 'reserves the right' to force venues to require people to show their 'vaccine passport' in order to be allowed in; giving further credence to reports the Government is reconsidering plans to introduce 'vaccine passports' for hospitality in the autumn, despite a recent review concluding there should be no legal requirements for their use.
Marks says Rekom UK will not be asking for 'vaccine passports' at its doors when it reopens.
He says he is 'thrilled' nightclubs will be able to reopen at full capacity and without any requirement for a negative Covid test, something he believes would create a barrier to both customer enjoyment and getting the industry back on its feet.
“We’re able to open in this way because nightclubs in particular are among the best equipped venues in the hospitality sector, and indeed were even prior to the pandemic, for the exact safety measures that are required to reduce the spread of the virus," he says.
“These include air ventilation systems in all our venues that change air every five minutes on average, sanitisation stations throughout all our clubs, increased frequency of cleaning schedules compared to before the pandemic, and highly trained staff and experienced door staff who are well-versed in crowd management protocols.
“Together, these measures mean that clubs are well placed to open and provide unforgettable nights out once again.”
The NITA also supports the decision to not mandate the use of 'vaccine passports' at this time.
"We look forward to the Government providing more guidance for businesses owners - this should be practical and easy to navigate," says Kill.
"But from today's statement we can say that the Government are right not to mandate the use of Covid status certification systems. Much of the night time economy relies on spontaneous consumers, and by permitting businesses to opt out, the Government have allowed for this trade to continue.
“Representing a sector that has shown such resilience in the face of adversity has been humbling for me personally – and I think now we can say, with more confidence than at any point previously during the pandemic, that better days lie ahead.”