These are the firm, understandable and totally logical words from Lohan Presencer, Executive Chairman of Ministry of Sound
In the film Independence Day, the president asks a captured alien what he wants of mankind. “To die,” comes the answer. This is what the Government requires of nightclubs. For all its robotic protestations of support, initiatives like the Job Support Scheme do nothing to help clubs. Why? Because when you are shut you are, well, shut. Imagine never emerging from lockdown. That’s us.
Over the last six months, club owners have proposed ever more esoteric ideas, desperate or humorous depending on your point of view, to keep the lights on. Face masks at the bar, socially distanced dancefloors, bouncers stopping couples from getting too close — “Oi, eye contact only!” All, unsurprisingly, to no avail.
There are no half measures for clubs, it’s all or nothing. Getting hot and sweaty, dancing and singing is what clubbing is all about. The virus quite likes that.
We are not going to pretend that clubbing can be made safe. The reality is that only a vaccine will save our industry. But the parties won’t stop because we have. Illegal raves have let rip with all the Covid-inducing consequences and people have already reverted to their old closing-time habits of “everyone back to mine?” Nightclubs are regarded as being at the bottom of the food chain — dirty, noisy, smelly places where people get up to all manner of shenanigans. I run Ministry of Sound, the most famous nightclub in history. Over 30 years we have hosted over 10 million people. Last year, 300,000 clubbers passed through our doors. For many tourists, a visit to Ministry of Sound is as essential as visiting Madame Tussauds or The Shard.
We have also employed thousands of creative Londoners, from dancers to DJs, promoters to performing artists and thousands of bar staff, security and cleaners. Not to mention the taxi firms, takeaway food outlets, local hotels, pubs, bars and restaurants which feed off us. Over the years our contribution to London’s night-time economy is in the hundreds of millions. Other businesses like restaurants and bars at least have a sporting chance. Even if closing time is 10pm, maybe they can trade at 60-70 per cent capacity. It’s so frustrating to watch the parade of cardboard cut-out junior ministers offering measures “to support” the night-time economy. These are meaningless in circumstances where the lights are out. Better to admit that the Government is unwilling or unable to do anything.
I know honesty in politics is unfashionable but at least it would lift the fog of waffle and allow everyone to focus on reality. Imagine if a minister were to state that clubs are unlikely to re-open until the summer of 2021 or until a vaccine is found, then provide some crisp, proactive advice to club owners, landlords and local authorities on how to ride out the storm. Throw in a mini fund to cover ancillary expenses and much of the industry could be saved. But such practical thinking is anathema to politicians.
Over the past six months, the public have become inured to each industry pleading its tale of woe. For many, culture means theatre, ballet, opera and museums. For us night owls, culture doesn’t stop at midnight. Besides this, why are we the only industry required to die by law?