“Please don’t let the industry I love to go to ruin” – Sheffield's late night venues call on government for urgent support

Sheffield’s late night venues are calling on the government to intervene before ‘very serious’ damage is done after the Prime Minister implemented a 10pm curfew.

By Sam Ward
Friday, 25th September 2020, 3:36 pm

Following Boris Johnson’s announced on September 22 that bars, pubs and restaurants would have to close by 10pm nightclubs and venues across Sheffield say the curfew could have a devastating long-term impact.

The industry supports thousands of employees and Paul Kinsey, owner of nightclub Viper Rooms on Carver Street, who has over 30 years experience in the industry, said his 200 plus staff are at risk of losing everything because of the new government restrictions.

He added: “Whilst Rishi Sunak’s announcement of support for the hospitality industry has helped pubs, hotels and restaurants it has left the whole of the nightclub industry without a penny of support.

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"We have been closed since March 23 by law and have no indication of when we may re-open.

"Sunak’s assertion that government don’t help zombie businesses is fair but he has turned nightclubs into a zombie business.

"We support the government in putting health first but forcing my company and our industry to wither on the vine because we are not deemed essential is a scandal.

"My company alone will now have to lose over 200 people, and in the coming weeks the 1,200 clubs in the UK will be forced to remove the livelihoods of the 100,000 people that rely on us.

Paul Kinsey, the owner of Viper Rooms, has said that the industry needs vital support.

"All we asked for was a survival package not loss of profit, just rent, fixed finance costs and critical management salaries.

"Please don’t let the industry I love to go to ruin, it deserves much more. Let’s push to get some reaction from government.”

Sheffield cultural staple, the Leadmill, finally opened its doors for the first time in six months earlier this week after reducing its capacity from 900 to 140 seated places and getting it signed off by the relevant authorities to ensure it was ‘safe and exemplary’.

It had planned numerous events for this week to welcome new students to the city – albeit in a different way to what the team behind the live music venue was used to.

Viper Rooms nightclub in Sheffield city centre can now no longer open past 10pm.

The second of two sittings was supposed to run from 11pm-3am, but that has now been ‘taken away’, says Rebecca Walker, the assistant general manager.

She added: “For us to be profitable and hold a late night bar, because we are still not allowed to open as a nightclub, we have to run two events in a night.

“We were already seated and doing table service, and we had invested heavily in safety measures, including an app so people did not even have to get up to order or purchase drinks.

“Now, the government has taken 50 per cent of that trade away when it had already reduced our capacity down to 15 per cent.

Rebecca Walker, assistant general manager at The Leadmill

“I guess our overall feeling is that we had track and trace data here, we were operating safely, we had our customers under control and by bringing in a 10pm curfew that is essentially allowing students to go off and have unregulated, uncontrolled and unsafe house parties which we all know they are going to do,” Rebecca said.

"Opening on Monday, our first event in six months, our customers were respectful, they were well-behaved, they were understanding.

"We couldn’t thank their cooperation enough; It was all very safe fun, and that has been taken away from us,” she added.

The industry is are now calling directly to government to offer ‘urgent support’ to save venues, jobs and livelihoods.

Rebecca added: "It is going to have a real serious impact on the Leadmill, the last six months has had a real serious impact.

"We are currently hanging on to the possibility of having Arts Council funding through the culture recovery scheme that the central government announced in the summer.

The Leadmill had planned late night events for Freshers' Week, but they will now no longer go ahead after the Prime Minister's announcement.

"We put our application in back in August and that decision will be made in the next couple of weeks.

"Hopefully we are successful with that funding, but even if it is successful, we are calling on central government for sector specific support and that support has to come immediately.

"The events and creative industries are very creative, very resilient and innovative so we will adapt once again as we have done the past six months.”

Cassie Wyke, who runs the Old Horns Inn in Bradfield with her husband John, said she felt sorry for bars and pubs that are solely ‘relying on drinks sales’.

Cassie said: “We are out in the countryside and we are a very food-led pub anyway so it does not impact us too much.

"We don’t have a late drinking crowd anyway so for us the 10pm curfew is not too major, we will just have to make sure all customers are out by then.

“I feel sorry for pubs that rely mainly on drinkers because it is a totally different kettle of fish, it is easier for us with food to carry on the table service anyway.”

Greg Mulholland, campaign director of the Campaign for Pubs, said the government had ‘turned its back on thousands of valued community pubs and thousands of hardworking publicans’.

He added: "Despite claiming to want to help hospitality, the Chancellor offered no help to thousands of pubs that are so important to their local communities, despite the government imposed restrictions leading to a huge loss of trade.

“Without urgent support for wet-led pubs, the government will be directly responsible for closures of many valued pubs and the destruction of our pub culture, so we ask the Chancellor to think again and support pubs through this crisis.”

The team at the Old Horns Inn in Bradfield are adapting to the new measures.