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Angus nightclub owner backs legal bid to declare Covid-19 rules illegal

Angus nightclub Covid restrictions
De Vitos nightclub in Arbroath.

A local nightclub owner in Angus has said the government should give the industry a date for reopening or reinstate financial support.

Kevin Sivewright, who owns De Vito’s in Arbroath and Montrose, has backed a legal bid that describes the restrictions on hospitality as “unjustifiable”.

Speaking to The Courier, Kevin called for the government to give an indicative date for when nightclubs would be allowed to reopen.

“If they don’t give us a date to work towards then they need to put the support back in place,” Kevin said.

As well as a grant of up to £25,000 businesses forced to close in the second lockdown were also eligible for four weekly payments of up to £3,000, depending on the size of the business.

This funding was stopped as pubs and restaurants were able to reopen on April 26 when the coronavirus lockdown rules eased.

Current rules

But under current rules nightclubs are one of the few industries which have been told they cannot reopen at all.

The Scottish Government’s current coronavirus roadmap indicates that rule is not likely to change even when the country moves to Level 2 of the roadmap later in May.

Legal action against the rules has been launched by the Nightime Industries Association [NTIA], who say the restrictions are “unjustifiable”.

The NTIA has launched a judicial review of the ongoing restrictions which they also say are in breach of the Human Rights Act.

The action was also backed by Dundee nightclub boss Tony Cochrane.

‘It’s definitely cost us tens of thousands’

Kevin added: “We shut on March 20, and we’ve never been allowed to open in any way at all since then.

“It’s been a real struggle. The Scottish Government has pointed us to grants, and you can get some of them, but a lot of them you don’t meet the criteria.

“It’s definitely cost us tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. We employ 50 plus staff and a lot of them now are looking for other jobs because they don’t know when we get to reopen.

“If furlough ends before we can reopen they will be unemployed.

“I’ve emailed the First Minister and asked a date to work to, but I just get told what they have said previously.

“That’s no help to anybody.”

Kevin also told The Courier that he thought a similar pilot for the return of nightclubs should be tried in Scotland to one which took place in Liverpool this weekend.

The event allowed people to attend a club night without wearing face masks as part of a trial for the return of nightlife.

‘Public health is paramount’

Ticket holders were not required to socially distance but a negative test for the virus was required.

“Absolutely that’s something we should be doing. I think people would want to try it,” Kevin said.

SNP Business Minister Jamie Hepburn said public health had to be paramount.

He said: “We know that nightclubs have been particularly badly hit by this pandemic. That is why the Scottish Government extended rates relief for a further 12 months and made available grants of up to £50,000 for the sector, as well as £19,500 restart grants – on top of any UK government support.

“We have also supported freelance artists and performers with grant funds that were unavailable elsewhere in the UK.

‘We have been given nothing’

“We don’t want any business to remain closed for a day longer than is necessary but public health is paramount and we must move carefully to ensure continued suppression of the virus.”

The judicial review has also been supported by Tony Cochrane, owner of Fat Sams Live and Club Tropicana.

He hit out at the lack of constructive dialogue from the government on the issue, and pointed out that even under Level 0 of the roadmap out of lockdown nightclubs would still be banned.

He said there was “no clarity” on how the system progressed beyond Level 0, which is currently scheduled for late June.

Tony added: “Every other sector has a timetable to recovery, we have been given nothing. All financial assistance has stopped and no further offer of funding with months of costs ahead and no income leaving us on the brink of collapse.

“This frustration of no route map, failure to have constructive dialogue, the threat to our 350 staff’s livelihoods, continued closure, and lack of action to give financial support has led us to having no alternative but to challenge Scottish Government through the legal system.”

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