As pubs, restaurants and music venues prepare for life after lock down, Liverpool publican Laura King of The Caledonia blasts the Government for their lack of action or coherent plan.
Oh lord, this is a shit show.
As the operator of a venue, pub and restaurant I interact with trade bodies across various sectors of hospitality and the performing arts.
This is a pretty easy conclusion but our Government is making us jump through hoops to prove this.
So far since March 23, when we were all asked to close, the work done by government committees has focused on developing a safe way for various sectors to reopen.
The irony being that these documents, as soon as they’re published, will be used by our various sectors to prove that in fact, they cannot open safely and as such are in need of help from central government to wait it out until they can.
That is a whole bustle of a conversation to deal with in the coming weeks.
As our sector representatives take the fruits of their unwavering dedication to our cause, back to the government to try and hash out the ‘least bad’ options for us all.
My concern is simple. Some people missed the penny drop.
Like most people, I am dying to get back out there to eat, drink, dance and make merry.
Businesses, particularly indies and the smallest SMEs, are desperate to have people back, but I’m worried most are simply not aware of how different the landscape now is.
The long touted July 4 is not business as usual.
It’s just a date plucked out of the chaos.
At absolute best it’s July 4 with caveats and social distancing but it’s not actually the July 4 at all.
Nobody in our sector should be saying for certainty they’ll be open on X, Y, or Z date because right now, no date exists.
And please, this is not an affront to any business taking this approach.
It’s a full time job to collate all the information never mind try to make any clear conclusion from it as to what we should be doing.
It’s natural to panic and try to find some semblance of normalcy.
Assuming, after all, these are the businesses that are generally more concerned with passion for their offer than they are with the bottom line.
These are the businesses who just scrape by when things are going well.
So who pays for the uncertainty? Answer: You.
The Government will blame the industry and we will blame the government and you’ll still have no clue what you should or shouldn’t be doing.
The whole sector is on its knees and we’ve been pushed hard into the corner.
We’re wondering how can we compete and survive while others unscrupulously legally and illegally cash in on our absence.
The Government will expect us to keep up with this innovation but there’s already too much risk.
We’re a sector made for creative thinking and forward moving but we can’t equally compete until what we already have is secured and for that, we need financial aid and clear policy.
There are four core activities considered “High Risk.”
Singing, dancing, being close to people and being in a confined space.
Going to the pub or a gig is out indefinitely.
To give my place as an example; The Caledonia hosts 120 people on a steady night.
Two metres social distancing, it’s six people. One metre social distancing we get 18.
With this we can only accommodate solo acts and we’d need five staff to do it.
IT IS NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL!
I’m a member of Music Venue Alliance and Music Venue Trust (MVT).
They represent around 800 Grassroots Music Venues (GMVs) and have collected a mammoth amount of analytical data from their members and our audiences.
It will cost the government £50million to mothball all GMVs until the end of September.
Considering the £250m they just wasted on an abandoned contact tracing app, it’s nothing to them.
This money would in turn set venues free to be able to do what we do best, to bring events to the public in magical ways without risking our core survival.
With the MVT to the front, venues are saying we’ve listened to advice and we know we shouldn’t open.
We’ve done the right thing and now we need the government to have our backs.
We need to protect our futures and we need to work together.
We need long term VAT cuts, grants and relief.
Most of all we need a clear, comprehensive, well executed policy and we need it yesterday.