It’s been an incredibly challenging 10 months for the hospitality and night-time industries. Businesses that are the heart and soul of our capital have been forced to close for months on end as our country struggles to cope with the spread of COVID-19.
Bars, clubs, pubs and venues have seen their incomes collapse in what can only be described as a rollercoaster of restrictions. They shut their doors during lockdown in the spring and summer, adapted their businesses to open again, coped with the 10pm curfew in the autumn, closed again in November, and then managed a week-and-a-half of trading in December before being told to shut for their most lucrative time of year.
It’s been almost impossible to navigate and businesses across the capital have done all they can to keep afloat. The closure over Christmas and the New Year was a particularly devastating blow to the sector as those weeks generate income that sustain businesses throughout the year. Without that trade, and after such an unstable year, some of London’s favourite establishments are facing the threat of closure for good.
Sadly, the health crisis in our capital has only been getting worse and the prospect of our venues opening their doors again seems further away than ever. That’s why it’s so important that the Government steps forward with the financial support the night-time industries need to survive.
The Mayor and I have been doing all we can to support businesses with our £2.3m emergency fund to help some of the most at-risk small businesses within the culture and night-time industries. Our Pay It Forward scheme is helping to raise more than £1m for businesses by allowing customers to buy goods and services in advance, and the London Business Hub has been providing one-to-one advisory sessions.
But it is the Government who must step in immediately to save the hospitality and wider night-time economy in the capital, and ensure that when the restrictions are lifted there are venues to return to. That means immediate, targeted financial support for those that have had to close, an extension to the business rates and VAT holiday, as well as support for the freelancers who are so integral to the industry but often excluded from the support packages.
Our nightlife is the envy of the world, a unique melting pot of music, culture and diversity that makes London what it is. We’re in a race to save it.