The CEO of one of the UK’s oldest and best-loved LGBT+ bars, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, has hit out at Boris Johnson’s Christmas plan of allowing multiple houses to mix during the height of a pandemic, but not allowing them to mix in Covid-secure settings like pubs and bars is a “road to nowhere”
He said it was “inflicting devastating pain to an industry on the verge of collapse”.
James Lindsay, The RVT‘s CEO has written a blistering open letter to Boris Johnson and his cabinet saying that the current Christmas plan to allow up to three households to mix for five days during the festive season is a “mockery” of all the hardship that the hospitality industry has been through in the last 39 weeks.
He also told the Prime Minister that the plans to allow families to mix in their own homes, but not in restaurants or pubs, was putting “vulnerable people at risk” and denying the LGBT+ community a chance to mix and socialise with their chosen families.
He wrote, The Government’s olive branch for a ‘family Christmas’ is clearly aimed at appeasing the “party” faithful. As well as putting many vulnerable people at risk this also denies the LGBTQ+ community their much needed time with friends and our chosen families.
“Our venues offer a safe space for people who often don’t have the ‘normal’ family support”.
Gay Bars are at particular risk when the tier system returns.
One of the issues facing many bars, but in particular gay bars, is that many aren’t equipped to serve food – which is one of the requirements for pubs to be able to open in at least two Tiers of the Government’s system. Bars which solely sell drink are unable to open in Tier 2 and Tier 3. Only bars which sell “substantial” food can open in Tier 2 and can only operate as takeouts in Tier 3.
With most of the country expected to be entered into Tier 2 or 3 when Boris Johnson announces the Tier system today, the Equator bar in Birmingham announced that it might have to close forever, adding “Equator bar is not a restaurant so will not be allowed to open in Tier 2” and added, “Maybe time to call it a day”.
Speaking about the crisis facing the LGBT+ Scene, Lindsay continued, “The vast majority of LGBTQ+ venues don’t serve food but offer cabaret, DJs, screenings and a whole range of other events that people need to buy tickets in the same way theatres do.
“A venue such at The RVT not only supports its staff and customers but has a whole range of self-employed performers and promotors that rely on us and all the other venues, many of whom are from marginalised groups within our community.”
How does hospitality contribute to the rising numbers of Coronavirus cases?
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association said, “Hospitality has accounted for as little as 2% of Covid cases”, and Kate Nicholls CEO, UK Hospitality said, “Pubs and restaurants pay the price of tougher tier restrictions – no other sector are facing restrictions like these.”
Government data has shown that house-to-house mixing has the highest rate of rates of transmission for the virus.
Government must compensate the hospital sector
Lindsay continued, “We understand the need for safety and Public Health, since March we have followed every rule the Government has told us to, but now the Government needs to do the honourable thing and financially support the approach to destroy a much loved industry and fully compensate commercially viable businesses who have been operating Covid-19 compliance.
“That means grants that fully cover their fixed costs and loss of business and loss of profit.
Road to nowhere
“It feels like we are on a road to nowhere that will result in the decimation of the hospitality sector as well as more deaths from Covid.
“Maybe I should ask – What is the purpose of this Government? They have not consulted with the hospitality industry and the advice that has been provided by the industry experts has been ignored. Equally the advice of the Governments own experts with the strategy they have deployed has also been ignored.”
Read the full statement here