Sacha Lord warns night-time economy faces 'new period of darkness'

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By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Greater Manchester's night time economy advisor Sacha Lord warns night time economy faces 'new period of darkness'

Related tags: Night time economy, Night Time Industries Association, Nightclub, Pub & bar, Government, Sacha Lord

Greater Manchester's night time economy advisor, Sacha Lord, has warned that the UK's nightlife industry faces a 'new period of darkness' amid the cost of living crisis.

Speaking ahead of next week's spring statement, Lord has expressed 'overwhelming concern' for the sector, which has been battling shortfalls attributed to pandemic lockdowns, and a weakened investment market in the sector post-pandemic.

"The current cost of inflation and economic instability has exacerbated the financial pressures on operators in the night-time economy, the majority of whom are already devastated by two years of low trading and who are struggling to overcome Covid-related debt," says Lord.
"We are seeing difficulties across the board, from supply chain logistics, price rises in produce and ingredients and surging energy costs, which will only increase over the coming months. We can say with certainty that these unavoidable pressures will have huge, business-defining impacts on our hospitality sector."

The spring statement, to be announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday 23 March, has been eagerly anticipated by the sector's leaders, many of whom, including UKHospitality and the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), have called for an extension to the current VAT reduction to aid beleaguered operators.

Hospitality firms currently benefit from a reduction to 12.5% of VAT on food, soft drinks, accommodation, theatre tickets and other items to ease pandemic pressures, however, this rate is currently set to return to its pre-pandemic rate of 20% at the start of April.

"I applaud the businesses and operators across the sector who are already trying to mitigate the impacts of the cost of living crisis," continues Lord. "I have heard of many who are currently absorbing costs to avoid increasing prices for consumers, but this is not sustainable in the long term.

"Operators will take at least three years to recover from this pandemic and we need to move towards a position where businesses are afforded a period of stability in order to aid recovery and growth.

"The Chancellor's spring statement is an opportunity to calm nerves in the sector and provide this confidence. I am hoping to see a range of measures announced, including an extension to the current lower rate of VAT, in order to provide reassurance to an already bruised sector."

Pre pandemic, the UK’s night-time economy overall represented around 1.6% of GDP – or £36.4bn , according to the NTIA, but lost around 86,000 workers as the full impacts of the pandemic were felt.

The value of the UK pub market was also decimated, declining 61.9% in 2020 alone, and wiping £13.9bn off the sector's value. The total UK eating out market was forecast to recover to only 70% of its 2019 market value by the end of 2021.

Speaking on the issue last October, Christian Wakeford, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the night-time economy and Labour MP for Bury South, said: “As we look to rebuild from the devastation of the pandemic, we must not leave this vital sector behind.”

Related topics: Business & Legislation, Pub & Bar

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