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‘A kick in the teeth’: Nightclub owners react to No. 10’s BYOB party

Having born the brunt of repeated closures and lockdowns, the nighttime industry isn’t happy about partygate – here, Corsica Studios, Moth Club and others react to the leaks

Cast your mind back to May 20, 2020. Perhaps, like me, you were cutting your hair lopsidedly using YouTube tutorials and government-mandated jogs were still the highlight of your day. The Conservative party, meanwhile, were inviting over a hundred people for BYOB drinks in Downing Street’s gardens during the height of the nationwide lockdown, as newly leaked emails have alleged.

“Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening. Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!” the email seen by ITV News reads. The invite went out to over 100 employees, at a time when social mixing was banned except with one other person from another household outdoors in a public place. Where Downing Street had previously insisted that its now-infamous wine and cheese get-together (a separate event) was a work do, the new email made it impossible to spin as a business meeting.

As well as a police investigation, ‘partygate’ provoked a trend of social media users posting about what they were doing on that day. Many, sadly, were unable to attend funerals of loved ones or be with friends and family who were ill and dying. It provoked a “heartfelt apology” from Boris Johnson during today’s (Jan 12) PMQs, which turned out to be the laughable explanation that the Prime Minister hadn’t thought the event he attended was a party. When was the last time you attended a work meeting that turned out to be a party?

For many industries, particularly those of hospitality and nighttime, the effects of lockdown have been deep and longlasting. After 15 months of uncertainty, many venues and clubs were forced to permanently close, with others having to crowdfund to keep from shuttering. The Night Time Industries Association CEO, Michael Kill, told Dazed that the party news was “infuriating for members to hear news of further controversy from No.10, at a time when businesses across the night time economy were adhering to public health restrictions set out by the Government, many of which did not survive”.

London’s Moth Club was one of the venues crowdfunding as part of a national initiative by the Music Venue Trust to fight for the survival of independent music venues. “​​To be honest, (the news) comes as no surprise but who knows what will be leaked next!” Jamal Guthrie of the club tells Dazed. “The pandemic has been a constant cycle of closures and reschedules. Like a lot of other venues our size, we rely on touring acts to fill large sections of our diary and since Covid first hit, our calendar has been out of sync as bands have had to cancel shows and change album release plans. Just as we thought we might be able to get a smooth run, Omicron hit and we’ve seen a number of shows get rescheduled once more.”

“It’s very much a kick in the teeth to hear that Westminster were having a nice little garden party with BYOB at this time” – The Caves, Edinburgh

Other venues share this sense of anger at the government’s disregard for the very rules it put in place. The Caves in Edinburgh, an event space and concert and club venue, says: “To hear that while we are unable to open due to Covid restrictions with our future in jeopardy and our staff’s stress levels through the roof due to job uncertainty? It’s very much a kick in the teeth to hear that Westminster were having a nice little garden party with BYOB at this time.”

“It’s disappointing that while we and our partygoers were faced with staring at four walls, losing jobs, and a business with no income, the Tory ‘party’ were living it up,” Jamie Shearer of London’s Corsica Studios tells Dazed. “I think it just proves that the public are a lot more responsible than we’re given credit for. We initiated voluntary lockdown, closing venues, and WFH when the pandemic looked imminent. I just hope we continue to be the grown-ups here. Let’s look out for each other, because we obviously can’t rely on the government’s examples”.