More than 150 people took to Coventry city centre protesting the government imposed 10pm curfew and in support of the nightlife industry.
Since September 24, pubs, restaurants and bars have been forced to empty their premises at 10pm in a bid to help stop the spread of coronavirus, particularly among younger people.
It served as a fresh blow to venues that had already suffered temporary closures during the first lockdown and managing the knock-on effect of implementing social distancing measures and the reduced appetite for people to return to eating and dining out.
But protest organiser Rob Hall said the curfew ‘hurts the country more than it hurts us’.
The #LetTheMusicPlay demonstration was held in Broadgate on Sunday (October 11).
Business owners, staff and DJs were among the group that stood silently for 30 minutes before holding a round of applause at 3pm.
Organiser Rob Hall, marketing manager at Coventry venues Samoan Joes, Heat and Teezers Golf, said: “A lot of us hadn’t seen each other for months and months, so it was a case of rebuilding old links and maybe forging new ones. A lot of introductions happened for DJs, for staff etc, because you never know when you could forge another positive business link moving forward.”
A government announcement yesterday (October 12) introduced a new three-tier system to combat the virus. For the time being, Coventry sits in the ‘medium’ risk area meaning it is business as usual for the venues Mr Hall is employed by.
However other areas have seen further enforced closures of bars and restaurants or limits on households mixing, meaning a big knock on for hospitality venues where those from different households will no longer be able to socialise.
More help needed
“We’re at the lowest point so we’re still okay, although still curfewed to 10pm,” Rob said. “It could’ve been a lot worse. It could’ve meant closure, which would’ve meant staff being let go again with no one knowing what is going on.
“Other parts of the country have been affected more regards to closures, especially up north, with regards to closures etc, I still think they will ultimately go into a second lockdown but I hope that this time it is a lot shorter and it’s a lot better for us. They’ve said the furlough scheme will be extended with regards to industries that can’t open, but obviously at the minute we’re in a position where we can open.
“More help is needed for the business owners that are struggling due to lesser trading hours and more staff needed to follow the rules as they currently are.”
Pubs, restaurants and bars have had nearly three weeks to adjust to the curfew but Mr Hall believes the message is not getting through to people – and the problem the curfew was brought in to help remedy could be kicked further down the road.
He said: “Since the 10pm curfew came in, week on week, it’s got busier and busier. It’s still a real weird one. Your social media accounts are buzzing, people are booking tables etc, I’d say 40-50 per cent are still asking ‘what time are you open till?’. So I don’t think the message is clear enough yet.
“There’s been the well-publicised problems once they’re out of the venue. People hitting off-licences, anti-social behaviour, I’ve seen some of it in Leamington, we as venue operators our job is to get them onto the street but the problem is, once they’re on the street and causing anti-social behaviour, do we still go out and try and manage it the best that we can or do we sort of let it go? It’s a strange time, you don’t want to ruin peoples’ fun but ultimately, that fun could impact on your business if they’re stood outside of it.”
Hurting the country
He also believes more support could be given to the nightlife industry and fears the curfew will ultimately detrimentally impact the country.
“There’s a lot more support that could be given,” he explained. “I think we’ve got to be realistic. It’s not just nightlife that’s struggling. Yes, we’re allowed to open until 10pm but I think in the long run that hurts the country more than it hurts us.
“If they’re blaming the 17 to 21-year-olds, they’re the ones who are more likely to go and have your house parties after 10pm, rather than having them all in one area where you can police them quite comfortably. Now you’re putting them all over the town, all over the city and they could be absolutely anywhere. It’s the police who I feel will be tested the most, because we’re doing the best we can to keep them save under our rules, under our roofs, but once they’re not under our roof, anti-social behaviour incidents are going to go through the roof I believe.”
He added: “As much as we’d love to have them indoors, buying drinks and having a good time, we’ve got rules that we’ve got to adhere to with regards to the timing. So after 10pm we send them on their way and they can do their please. If they were to extend the curfew to even if it was 12am or 1am, I think that’s a fair time not only for us, but for people to go ‘let’s call it a night’ rather than ‘oh let’s have a house party’.
“Most people come out for 10pm, so by then people have had a few drinks then you send them on their way and it’s ‘where are we going next?’. If there’s not a venue that can take them in, then ultimately they’ll find their own fun and that’s where the problems will come.”
Video created by www.digital-flow.co.uk