Pin It
Photography Alexander Popov, via Unsplash

Experts warn that UK nightclubs face extinction due to COVID

The Night Time Industries Association says that venue closures due to lack of government support will increase illegal, underground events

In March, shops, pubs, and venues across the UK were forced to close indefinitely, as the government imposed stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the coronavirus. While most places have since been able to reopen in some capacity, nightclubs remain shuttered.

Now, experts are warning that clubs across the country are facing extinction due to a lack of government support through the crisis. In a recent statement, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said nightclubs “have been systematically extinguished from the night time economy by the UK government”, adding that “the failure of the government to recognise the devastating impact of its actions on this sector is a tragedy to UK culture”.

Speaking to Dazed, NTIA’s CEO Michael Kill says: “The failure in many ways has been (the exclusion of nightlife) from the narrative, as well as the lack of economic and cultural recognition and value, robust financial support packages for businesses, and an exit strategy or direction of travel.”

In July, the government unveiled a £1.57 billion culture recovery fund, which would help protect national and independent arts venues, including theatres, music venues, galleries, museums, cinemas, and heritage sites. However, in October, when the recipients of the fund were announced, a number of major nightclubs were excluded, including London’s Printworks, Oval Space, and The Pickle Factory.

Reflecting on the fund now, Kill tells Dazed that it was “always going to be a stretch to save businesses”, explaining that “£1.57 billion spread across the entire cultural sector was a tall order”.

“We still have some huge reservations on the levels of money awarded across a limited amount of businesses,” he continues, “and we will continue to work with the DCMS and ACE to ensure that contemporary music culture has a fair opportunity to access these and future funds.”

In recent months, a number of renowned venues have announced their closure, including Canavan’s in Peckham and Zanzibar Club in Liverpool. Others are crowdfunding to help stop themselves from permanently shuttering, including Egg London and Club Mission in Leeds, while Manchester’s Gorilla and Deaf Institute were recently saved when a buyer stepped in. 

“(The culture recovery fund was) always going to be a stretch to save businesses. £1.57 billion spread across the entire cultural sector was a tall order” – Michael Kill, NTIA

Last month, G-A-Y launched a lawsuit against the government, demanding a review of the 10PM curfew, which the venue’s lawyers described as “arbitrary”. One MP told The Guardian that the curfew – set to be extended under the upcoming tiered system – has “no basis” and “is crippling the hospitality sector for no good reason”. G-A-Y’s hearing has been set for December 3. 

Though a June report hinted at the reopening of nightclubs, with “entry check” safety measures in place – hand sanitiser, temperature checks, and socially distanced queuing – this doesn’t seem likely any time soon.

“Without support, businesses will be lost,” asserts Kill. “The once-strong sector of over 1,400 venues pre-covid will shrink by an estimated 50/60 per cent, which will lead to a shortage of venues and events which are fundamental to the growth and support of the electronic music industry.”

Kill explains that the closure of these venues will “force the music back underground to illegal events” in order to “accommodate for the shortfall in event spaces”.

This is already being seen through the newly-flourishing illegal rave scene. In June, experts predicted that England would experience a “summer of rave” not seen since 1989, while just last month, the NTIA said these parties were on the rise again as new lockdown measures came into force.

So, how can we save our beloved nightclubs? “Keep tuned in,” advises Kill, “engage with your favourite clubs, support financially or through sharing messages of support – make sure the government realises the important part they play in the cultural tapestry of the UK, and in the global significance of the UK electronic music scene.”

Read our feature about the future of partying in a post-pandemic world here.