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Why isn’t The Government Doing More to Save Nightlife?

     There are few parts of the economy that have been as badly affected by Covid-19 than nightlife – or to be more accurate, the response to the coronavirus, rather than the disease itself. Nightclubs have been forced to close since March and face even more months of closure. The ratcheting up of restrictions, and the accompanying fines, for anyone trying to organize alternative events like raves, have killed off any ingenious attempts to meet the intense demand and desire to congregate and have fun.

     There are two ways that a government can kill off an industry; passivity or effort. Leaving a sector to quietly dwindle in the face of an emerging threat to its viability is the passive approach. The problem with that is your goal of extinction can rumble on for years. Far better to put some effort into the execution, pulling all the policy levers at your disposal. Make no mistake this government is attending to the night-time economy, but not in a way that anyone involved wants.

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     Restrictions limiting numbers of customers, even if they are allowed to open, mean it wouldn’t be a commercially viable operation, leaving only those who have deep enough pockets to subsidize a nightclub opening its doors. Then there was the introduction of a night-time curfew starting at 9pm just to make it absolutely clear what the intention is. There is no other explanation, as the justification for the curfew has no scientific support and the government has been unable to provide a single piece of evidence showing how it would contribute to the suppression of the virus.

     As with the mass gentrification that came before, this is an attempt to clear city centers of any noisy and unsavoury activity in the evening. Leaving these unviable businesses to be offloaded or seized due to bankruptcy and be picked up by developers and speculators for a song. The soul of the urban center will be turned into high end accommodation priced at a level to ensure only the “right” type of occupant is able to afford it.

     This is all playing out in front of our eyes, but difficult to see due to the distractions we have to navigate just to survive. We need to think carefully about whether we want a government that has an ambition for us all simply to exist or one that aims for living a life with all its experiences and shades of enjoyment. Nightclubs and the wider night-time economy are not a “nice to have” optional extra, they are for many the only way to feel as though they are alive and not simply existing.

-Ian Hamilton

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