U.K. VENUES FACE RENEWED THREAT OF CLOSURE

The U.K.’s grassroots music-venue sector is once again facing a crisis, according to a statement from the Music Venue Trust, which says attendance to shows has dropped 23% since the announcement of new restrictions last week and the growing threat of the Omicron variant.

MVT cites a “catastrophic drop” in attendance, advance ticket sales and per-person spending 12/6-13, which it says places the sector back on red alert for the risk of permanent closures.

A survey of 284 respondents shows that 86% of venues have been negatively impacted by the public’s response to the Omicron variant.

During the same period, 76% of grassroots venues saw a decrease in gross income, which declined 27% on average. In addition, 79% reported a rise in no-shows, with the average increase sitting at 23%, while 74% saw a decrease in advance ticket sales, by 27% on average.

Nearly 70% of venues had to cancel at least one event during the same period, primarily due to poor sales or a performer or member of their touring party testing positive for COVID-19. The estimated gross income that’s been lost during the week is pegged at £1.9m.

“It feels like we're back where we were in March 2020, when confusing government messaging created a ‘stealth lockdown’—venues apparently able to open but in reality hemorrhaging money at a rate that will inevitably result in permanent closures unless the government acts quickly to prevent it,” said Mark Davyd, CEO of MVT.

MVT has called for Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Culture, to immediately create a ring-fenced stabilization fund to protect the sector, to be derived from the £1.7b Culture Recovery Fund, some of which remains unspent and unallocated.

The use of COVID passports, which convey attendees' vaccination status or negative test result, was voted into law Tuesday for nightclubs and venues with a capacity of more than 500. The recently imposed restrictions “will jeopardize the survival of businesses in 2022,” said Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, who also called for urgent additional support.

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