Under harsh COVID restrictions, will Newcastle's nightlife survive?

It’s no secret that Newcastle students are missing a night out at the moment. With a 10pm curfew, a ban on socialising with people outside your household and a six person limit, Newcastle’s famous nightlife has taken a real hit. So, how are these businesses staying afloat? The short answer is not all of them […]

Scarlett Welch
19th October 2020

It’s no secret that Newcastle students are missing a night out at the moment. With a 10pm curfew, a ban on socialising with people outside your household and a six person limit, Newcastle’s famous nightlife has taken a real hit. So, how are these businesses staying afloat?

The short answer is not all of them are. Wylam Brewery in Exhibition Park is one of the latest venues to close in Newcastle. In their announcement they stated that they have suffered an 84% loss in trade from pre-COVID levels. This example proves that many businesses just aren’t viable under the new restrictions. 

The absence of a Freshers week has also been a hit for local businesses. What is normally a huge money-maker for the city’s bars and clubs has been an incredibly toned-down start of this year. Events such as the famous ‘Loosecrawl’ and the ‘Neon UV Rave’, two of Fatsoma’s biggest events, had to be cancelled. 

These events, usually attended by thousands of students, are undoubtedly a huge loss for participating venues. Other events, such as Digital’s yearly freshers event, had to take place seated and in groups of six, meaning that they couldn’t pack in anywhere near their usual number of students. 

Many businesses are speaking out against the restrictions, particularly due to the 10pm curfew, claiming that the hospitality industry has been ‘unfairly targeted’. Horticulture bar and restaurant, alongside other 50 pub owners in the North East, has publicly supported the ‘cancel the curfew’ movement by signing an open letter to the Government that had over 1 000 total signatures.

Owner of Horticulture Mike Hesketh told the Chronicle: “What we don't want people to think is that we don't care about the pandemic - we just feel that there is no proof that the spread is linked to Covid-safe venues.”

In an anonymous survey done by the Courier, Newcastle University students expressed their opinions on the safety guidelines. One of the answers read: “Shutting pubs at 10pm makes no sense and doesn't feel any safer.”

“People are still drinking just as much with just as many people, they're just going out a few hours earlier than they normally would.”

Despite all this, lots of venues are finding many different ways to adapt to new regulations. Some bars, such as Lady Grey’s, are offering take-out drinks after 10pm so that customers can continue consuming their products later at night. Others are adapting their outdoor areas to be viable into the winter such as Market Shaker with its new rain-proof tent. 

Many venues are also opening earlier in the day to combat the earlier closing time, but can these adjustments really make up for capacities reduced by more than half and doors closing 5 hours earlier in some venues?

It’s unlikely. Whilst Newcastle’s vibrant nightlife is finding ways to live on, it’s clear that it’s just about surviving rather than thriving.

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