July 2021: News from the mayor Marvin Rees
The re-opening of Bristol’s Night Time Economy (NTE) has been a hot topic, with the sector and residents ready to come back with a bang after a challenging 16 months. However, at the time of writing, we have been informed that the planned re-opening has now been delayed by four weeks to 19th July.
The NTE is loosely defined as businesses which operate between 6pm and 6am; the city doesn’t stop at 6 o’clock. It is most widely known as encompassing hospitality such as pubs, bars, restaurants, and cultural spaces, including live music venues, nightclubs and comedy clubs. It also extends to the broad spectrum of businesses operating alongside the above, such as taxis, hotels, and the supply chain.
The NTE has been one of the hardest hit sectors by the pandemic. Even those venues that can open under current restrictions such as pubs, bars and restaurants, are taking 20%-30% of their usual takings as social distancing continues to decimate profits. While the pandemic has created space for innovative ways of operation such as Breaking Bread and the creativity of takeaway options, the four-week delay has dealt another blow to businesses. Venue owners and event organisers, who have been planning towards the 21st June by buying stock and hiring staff are now, in many cases, unable to recoup these costs, and UK Hospitality estimate that 300,000 jobs are at risk, with new hires not eligible for furlough.
The NTE sector is crucial to our city’s economy; pre-pandemic the sector employed 34% of Bristol’s workers and the delay will impact major events scheduled for July such as Bristol Pride, Sequences, Balloon Fiesta and Valleyfest. The impact of furlough and lockdowns has also resulted in large numbers of qualified workers making the decision to re-train and enter other areas of employment. The NTE now faces huge skills shortages when restrictions allow it to open.
As a Local Authority and a city, we are working to improve skills and employment opportunities in Bristol through our One City Economic Recovery and Renewal Strategy. We’re in conversations with partners about how we can deliver local training opportunities in the hospitality sector, and our NTE Advisor, Carly Heath, is linked to other cities facing similar problems, and has written to the Chancellor to highlight the need for further financial support from Government.
At the time of writing, the announcement of the delay did not come with any additional financial support or assurances for the sector, and the end on the ban on commercial rent evictions is still due to come into force at the end of June. Whilst businesses face debt, quarterly rent payments and further contributions to furlough costs in the coming weeks, they are still unable to generate revenue.
Our NTE contributes to making Bristol a popular, bustling city and is a key part of our cultural identity. Government need to recognise this and extend current business life support to ensure that this crucial sector of our economy can survive this delay and eventually open its doors to Bristol once more.