How does the Vaccine help bars and late night restaurants businesses bounce back?
I think the vaccination roll-out is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. However, we’ve got to consider the facts, in terms of measures that the government will still want to be in place while the vaccination programme takes its course.
There’s still a lot of work to do so we need to understand what the timeline for some of those hardest hit industries will be like night clubs, bars, theatres etc. We need to know how far down the line they can open or what place they take up in the queue to determine what support they need or whether there is going to be a requirement for further support.
Can you tell me about the Save the Nightlife campaign and its impact?
The campaign makes sure that the night-time economy, businesses and people that are encompassed within it are on the tips of the tongues of decision makers and key stakeholders.
I think we’ve worked very hard to ensure that the government, press, individual MPs and MSPs across the devolved governments are transactional in terms of our discussions, so that they understand the challenges and see the cultural loss of not having the nightlife businesses that we represent within their communities. We’ve still got several months of campaigning to do to ensure that we get people out the back end of this.
What has been the biggest support for the industry during this time?
I’d probably say the shining light has been furlough, without a doubt. The only challenge with furlough is the fact that it only exists if the businesses exist. The March Budget announcement is going to be key in terms of the future of the sector to see if any additional support will be provided.
What additional steps would you like to see the government take other than reopening?
I think it really is dependent on the timeline. We need to have a considerable financial package of support up until that point if, for example, late night venues are further down the line of reopening. Similarly we’re going to have to have a sector specific support mechanism to get them through. More important than anything else is that the government needs to change its narrative.
By saying don’t go to pubs, bars, restaurants, it has completely affected the sector. The prime minister will need to turn around and say that it’s safe to go out, but he needs to demonstrate this same position in terms of re-engaging the marketplace as he did at closing it down.
When lockdown lifts, do you think people will want to return to venues at full capacity despite the health risks?
I think this is where the narrative is quite key, we’ve seen many people that are very keen to come back to venues.
There is no doubt in my mind that there are some very keen people, especially within the youth culture, that want to get back and want to engage. However, as an industry we want people to come back safely and at the right time. The last thing we want to do is open the doors and then close them again.
What steps can those in the hospitality sector take once they are allowed to reopen to help aid their recovery- late night offers/discounts, safety precautions etc?
I think the one thing that is going to help us here is the different levels of respect between businesses and consumers. Consumers have missed being able to go out and socialise, so the value of that has become more important because they’ve been starved of it.
I think loyalty is also going to be of paramount importance. Venues are going to try and harbour offers which will make sure that people come back and return because having people they know coming back into this space will help with the regeneration of each business.
Do you think the pandemic will have led to any permanent changes to the sector moving forward?
I think digital mechanisms, like digital transactions which help reduce carbon footprint, are going to make a difference long term and be more efficient.
In the long term, I think people are going to consider other ways to monetise those experiences, possibly on a digital platform. We’re already seeing some examples of ways of moving that experience forward through virtual reality and two-way streaming, so we are at the very early stages of seeing some of those changes come through.
How long do you think it will take for the sector to get back to pre-covid trading levels?
I think it’s going to be a minimum of three to five years if everything goes as it’s expected in terms of vaccinations. The future proofing of our industry is resilient, strong and moving forward. As long as it doesn’t go through any other hiccups, then I think the sector will definitely get back to pre-Covid trading within the three to five year timeline.