Events businesses call for more industry-specific Covid support

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Events in the UK, such as Glastonbury Festival, have already been cancelled for this year while others are said to be considering their options.

Last week, the government announced a new fixed-cost support scheme available from January until April in tiers of £3,000, £5,000 or £10,000 per month, depending on the rateable value of the business premises.

Firms which are fully closed can claim 100% of the allowance, while businesses which are
‘materially restricted’, for example restaurants operating at reduced capacity, will be entitled to 50%.

Members of the Jersey Event, Entertainment & Nightclub Stakeholders Group said the scheme aims to benefit businesses in the hospitality sector which were forced to close over the Christmas period, but are expected to reopen next month, rather than the events industry, which has been unable to operate in any meaningful way since the start of the pandemic.

Rob Ritchie, owner of Stage 2 Productions, said: ‘The package raises more questions than answers. We were never specifically told to close like restaurants were, but as a result of gathering restrictions our businesses have been unable to operate. So does that mean we cannot apply for 100% of fixed costs?

‘Even if we can claim 50% of fixed costs for the next three months, that is not enough for an industry that has been closed
for ten months and still has no indication as to when it can resume.’

Earlier this month, the government issued the Visitor Attraction and Events Support Scheme which was designed to cover up to 80% of fixed costs incurred by events businesses between October 2020 and April 2021.

Mr Ritchie said that no one in the industry qualified for the scheme, which requires a minimum annual turnover of £300,000 and that businesses be registered for GST. He has called on the government to issue specific support to the industry.

‘We were promised specific support in July,’ he said. ‘It came in January and no one qualifies for it. The fixed-cost scheme will not be enough and if a business accepts that, does that mean they cannot benefit from the events scheme, should the criteria change to make it more fit for purpose?’

James Robertson, owner of The Event Shop and member of the stakeholder group, said the industry was given assurances by the government that businesses would receive support for fixed costs backdated to October.

He added: ‘The original events scheme covers up to 80% of fixed costs from October but no one qualifies for it. Now we are expected to settle for a fixed-cost scheme which could only cover 50% of costs from January and is designed for businesses like restaurants which traded throughout the summer and will reopen next month.’

Mr Robertson said many people will be forced to postpone events until the summer of 2022.

‘It’s January and people are already replanning weddings and big events for next year. If we are not vaccinated until September then we may not have much of a summer season as events take months to plan and we cannot do anything until gathering restrictions are lifted.’

He added: ‘The threat to our industry is real. All we are asking for is enough money to keep us afloat until we can resume normal service. If we do not get specific support from the government then we will not survive.’

Tony Sargeant, owner of outdoor catering company Jersey Kitchen, said it felt as though they were in a ‘constant battle’ with the government and he has pleaded with them to help the industry survive.

‘We waited six months to get a support package which was not fit for purpose and now we are asked to jump on a package which seems like it is designed for hospitality.

‘There has still been no mention of the events industry and it feels like we are constantly pushed to the back of the queue.’

Mr Sargeant said the stakeholder group would continue to push for specific support for the events industry.

‘I understand that with the current Covid climate I won’t be able to resume normal service anytime soon. All we want is a support scheme which covers the detriments suffered since we were forced to close last year and provides enough to keep us going until events can start.’

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