Future of South London pubs and clubs under threat due to 10pm curfew

Scores of high profile pubs and clubs face an existential threat because of the 10pm curfew they have to impose under current government restrictions.

The capital’s most iconic gay venue, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) in Kennington Lane, is one of the landmarks facing a cash crisis if huge losses are not averted during the winter, they say.

Dulwich MP Helen Hayes also on Wednesday issued an urgent demand for a lifeline for night-time venues across her constituency, to save more than 1,130 jobs in the area.

She claimed Chancellor Rishi Sunak has dismissed its venues as “unviable” and also doomed other sectors in her constituency such as events and conferencing, including 175 event caterers, 30 exhibition organisers and 10 people running conferences, and the creative, arts and entertainment sector, including theatres and cinemas – still shut-down or operating at reduced capacity – employing 175 people.

Her figures, from the Office of National Statistics, also indicate scores of jobs in sports clubs and the wedding industry are under threat.

She said: “It is shameful that Sunak has left them without support when they are taking the right actions to save lives.

“Branding industries which cannot reopen as ‘unviable’ will lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs, causing untold hardship and anxiety and pushing many families into poverty.”

The 137-year-old Grade-II listed RVT – awarded a £20,000 Lambeth council grant in June to help ensure its survival – has lost £825,000 since March.

A GoFundeMe page has raised almost £57,000 – but it can currently admit less than a quarter of its 400 capacity.

Owner James Lindsay said: “These donations are important but we are using our reserves now and they will not last forever.

“Why is the government targeting the hospitality industry when it is the safest of all?

“Forcing people out on to the streets at 10pm is dangerous. We do not understand the strategy.”

He also tweeted: “The longer this curfew is in place, the more devastating the effect will be.

“Common sense dictates that people are safer in a Covid secure premises than at house parties.”

Other venues to get cash from the Mayor are:

  • Eagle, in Kennington Lane, Vauxhall (£9,000)
  • Bar CMYK in Merton (£6,500)
  • Circa Club in Westminster (£10,000)
  • Fire, South Lambeth Road, Vauxhall (£23,000)
  • George & Dragon in Greenwich (£8,000).

A post from the Eagle said: “The Night Time Economy and in particular the LGBTQ bars and venues are being systematically removed from our city.

“Fifty-eight per cent of safe spaces have already gone, and the remaining icons of the once vibrant cutting edge and fiercely unique scene are being given the final stab in the back by this incompetent, ridiculous excuse of a Government.

“We understand there is a crisis affecting all of us. The clock is at five to midnight for us and other venues. Absolutely Heart Breaking. Literally.”

One pub hit by a double whammy of shrinking income and rental issues is the Railway Tavern in Tulse Hill, whose owner, Oz Wunche, said: “The curfew has made a mockery of all the government cash spent so far.

“It means venues will now need more money to survive. We are down 30 per cent on our takings. There does not seem to be a plan.

“If it continues throughout the winter we will be in a very bad place. I don’t know how we will pay back our Coronavirus Interruption Loan. For many it is a cliff edge.”

The pub will have a 33 per cent rent increase from March to repay debts it has incurred during lockdown.

Lawson Mountstevens, managing director of their landlords, Star Pubs & Bars, said: “The support we have put in place for them goes above and beyond that of other commercial landlords.”

Matt Dockray, head of customer experience at Flat Iron Square, Southwark, said: “We have seen seven weeks of continual growth and made a Covid secure environment and experience.

“The recent curfew and restrictions have now reversed all of those efforts.

“The (curfew) may be the right thing but it’s the support that needs to be given. We live in hope that it saves lives and makes a difference.

“I have a different perspective than many as I was in intensive care with Covid and luckily survived.

“It has impacted us by 60 per cent compared to last year but we intend to fight on however possible.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “There is definitely science behind it. That’s why we’re requiring people to be seated in pubs and restaurants, so that stops the flow of them to and from the bar.

“We are reducing the closing times to stop people staying later and drinking. If we all play by the rules, we can ensure that there are not further, more draconian restrictions.”

A spokesman for Downing Street said: “The decision to reduce time to 10pm was based on the fact it had been in operation in the local lockdown areas and had been considered to strike the right balance.”

Pictured top: The Royal Vauxhall Tavern

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