London’s nighttime economy still struggling to recover from pandemic

Night czar says more needs to be done to support the hospitality industry, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Amy Lamé, London's night tzar
Amy Lamé, London’s night tzar

London’s nightlife is facing “unprecedented challenges” to its survival, as it deals with a cocktail of high energy bills, staff shortages, and noise-sensitive neighbours, the city’s night czar has warned.

As the country marked three years since the first Covid-19 lockdown last week, Amy Lamé said night venues in London were still dealing with significant threats to their livelihoods.

She said: “This is an industry that was the first to close, the last to reopen, had the greatest number of restrictions, and was also unfairly blamed [for spreading the virus].

“[On] the other side of the pandemic, we have an energy crisis, we have a war in Europe, we have a severe cost of living crisis – where people have less money in their pockets, where people are making really tough decisions about how they spend their money.

“Businesses are having to face that increase in rent, that increase in business rates, and every other challenge that comes along.”

She added that skills shortages meant some bars and restaurants are only opening during half of the hours to which they’re entitled.

“These are all issues that the government needs to address urgently, if we want our full economic and social recovery – because I see them going hand in hand,” Amy said.

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She added that she and London mayor Sadiq Khan were “absolutely dedicated to championing the sector and to lobbying the government” for support.

The sector is also facing changed expectations around noise levels, the night czar said, potentially reflected in the objections people make to venues’ applications for later opening hours.

“I think the pandemic was a bit of a game changer. A lot of people moved during the pandemic, and it was very quiet in most places.

“Some people moved, and they might not have been fully aware of what they were moving into – others may have been.

“I think we’ve all become a bit more sensitive, because we got used to living in a quieter space.”

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said London “has the biggest concentration of late night licences in the country, and has without a doubt been hit disproportionately compared to other cities by multiple crises over the last four years”.

He added: “[London] is also subject to some of the highest operating costs across the country, with exorbitant rents, business rates, and costs creating an extremely difficult environment for businesses to trade, especially under the current inflationary pressures.”

A Department for Business and Trade spokesman said the government recognises the pressures night venues are under from “global factors”.

He said: “Last winter we supported all hospitality businesses – including nightclubs – with an unprecedented package of support for energy bills. This is in addition to the billions in grants and loans offered throughout the pandemic.”

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