Nightclubs and bars could sue the government to prevent the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions on June 21 in England, amid fears that struggling places will go to the wall if they are to remain closed any longer.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) is considering legal action on behalf of places such as nightclubs that have spent money to be ready to host guests after a year of forced closure.
According to the trade body, 54% of companies ordered actions, 73% called staff and 60% sold tickets.
Hospitality bosses have said they are increasingly resigned to the prospect of rules such as social distancing and mandatory masks not being relaxed, potentially until July.
“It was almost within reach and it now looks like it’s moving away,” said Chris Jowsey, head of the 1,000-person Admiral Taverns pub chain.
“We need people in pubs to trade profitably. People might say it’s only a fortnight or four weeks, but [publicans] cling to your fingertips.
Many pubs and restaurants opened when restrictions were relaxed in April and May as part of the first two stages of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown. But nightclubs and small venues, where social distancing is not possible, have been closed for six months or in many cases since the start of the pandemic.
“If this continues, they’ve used their last cash resource to get to the point where they can open the doors,” NTIA CEO Michael Kill said. “They have committed money to prepare, store, train staff. We’re talking about two weeks [delay], four weeks and uncertainty kills them.
He said the anxiety was exacerbated by the lack of a solution to a looming rent crisis. A government-imposed moratorium that prevents business owners from demanding late rent payments ends July 1.
“We have people who have compromised themselves financially and don’t know if they’re going to get out of debt,” Kill said. “The level of anxiety associated with commercial debt, which still has no solution two weeks from the end, is exceptional. “
Richard Nattriss, owner of a nightclub that runs Raw in Whitby, North Yorkshire, said: “Our building is owned by a pension fund, like a lot of places, and there has been no concession on the rents. We have paid the rent in full throughout the operation and the grants haven’t covered that, so we’re desperate to open up to get the cash.
Nattriss said he had already spent money on stocking up, due to the shortage of some drinks, but didn’t believe nightclubs could open until July 5 at the earliest.
“Even if they say the restrictions are lifted, we know deep down that they won’t,” he said.
The government is expected to provide an update on its roadmap on coronavirus restrictions on Monday, including details on the extent to which restrictions on reception venues will be lifted on June 21, if applicable. However, an industry source said she expected the decision to be postponed for a day due to the G7.
The Guardian has contacted the government for comment.