Nightclubs in England have seen low attendance and have been forced to cancel events as the pandemic continues to disrupt the nightlife industry nearly two weeks after ‘Freedom Day’.
Many operators blamed “low consumer confidence” over the government’s confused safety messages to attend.
“It’s not the freedom we expected,” said John Clark, owner of Faces nightclub in Gants Hill, east London. “We’re unlocked on paper, but we’re right in this twilight zone where it weren’t as crowded as we expected. “
The club was forced to cancel its first bottomless post-‘Freedom Day’ brunch because it couldn’t have enough staff. Clark said 35% of Faces staff had to self-isolate in the past week alone, after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS track and trace app.
He added: “People are confused by the messages they receive… we have received dozens of calls from clients asking them if they should wear masks or have a vaccination passport. “
Following a tough first weekend for the industry, nightclub operators have urged the government to rethink vaccine passports, which the government plans to make mandatory for entry to large-scale sites at from the end of September.
Will Power, owner of Lab 11 in Digbeth, Birmingham, said it was “utter madness” to limit entry to nightclubs to those who have been double stung. “If he’s passed I’m pretty sure there will be a lot of challenges. These are just the nightclubs people are talking about now, but it sets a precedent that could apply to many other industries.
Laboratory 11 had also been plagued by low attendance. “It’s great to be back, but we saw quite a few no-shows last weekend,” said Power.
The venue sold 1,400 tickets for its reopening event, but only 450 attended. The second event did not go much better, with 850 participants against 1,500 tickets sold, and Lab 11 had to reimburse up to 40% of tickets for some events.
Although they have not yet had to cancel any events since the reopening, Power said the venue was in a “vicious cycle.” “Anytime we’ve had to reschedule events due to restrictions, it reduces consumer confidence in purchasing tickets in advance for future events. “
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), said: “These are companies that have just spent months – some have been waiting for this moment since they closed in March 2020 – preparing to reopen. Then, on the much-vaunted day of the reopening, they are told: “In fact, you are going to have to completely change the main characteristics of your functioning in a few months”. It is just not fair and it is not fair to treat businesses this way.
Heaven in Charing Cross, London announced on Friday that it would be the first UK nightclub to offer vaccinations. The club offers early doses of Pfizer and accepts walk-in tours, although people can book in advance online.
Jeremy Joseph, owner of GAY Group and Heaven, said: “It gives me comfort to know that we are doing something positive to support the vaccine rollout.
Joseph added that since it reopened, it was “hell on Earth”. “We are open again because we have to be, but the government is talking about bringing in vaccine passports from September. Does that make you wonder if we are doing the right thing? “