Nightclub boss accuses Scottish government of having ‘presbyterian’ outlook
Nightclubs can reopen from Monday, but tensions between the beleaguered industry and the Scottish government are still high.
Club boss Tony Cochrane has accused Nicola Sturgeon’s administration of having a vision of some sort of “ancient Presbyterian band”, which lives by the commandment “Thou shalt not dance”.
His remarks came after nightclubs were hit hard by extended coronavirus closures during the first wave of the pandemic.
They were forced to close again from Boxing Day as part of a series of measures to halt the spread of the new Omicron variant, but were given the green light to open next week as the measures were canceled in response to declining cases.
Tony, who operates Vienna’s Paisley nightclub, told the Express: “It’s definitely an issue against a specific industry. She’s not interested in it.
“It’s like an old Presbyterian band who don’t want people to be able to dance on a Sunday in Scotland. Dancing is a happy activity.
“They have a problem with alcohol and with young people dancing. There is no scientific data to support it.”
Tony had previously said the industry had been left “hanging on” after being hit with closures which meant they were unable to operate from March 2020, they were only given the green light to reopen in August 2021.
But the eleventh-hour decision shortly before Christmas to close again after Boxing Day, decimating the lucrative festive season that provides income for quieter months like January and February, left the industry warning that jobs were stakes.
Nighttime entertainment impresario Tony, who owns a string of clubs across Scotland including Dundee’s Fat Sam’s, added: “Scotland was the only country in the world to ban music because of covid.
“They also keep these covid passports. It’s the weirdest thing ever, you can walk into a pub and people are all standing around each other yelping and there’s no need for a passport . It really doesn’t seem like there’s any rhyme or reason.”
He says it will be difficult for the industry to recover from the latest challenges, adding: “A lot of people might not have the full passport so they can’t come, they have no choice and there’s the question of the third prick too.”
The imposition of Covid passport arrangements has also given the industry an additional headache as people over the age of 18 must produce proof that they are fully vaccinated if asked, or have proof of a negative lateral flow or PCR test within the previous 24 hours.
Nicola Sturgeon’s pre-festive warning for the public to mingle as little as possible during the festive season has also been blamed for forcing revelers into a de facto lockdown that has plunged the hospitality industry into crisis and has led to widespread cancellation of bookings.
Tony added: “We had the party thing where a lot of companies canceled their parties and parties were canceled – a lot of them would have ended up in clubs.
“So we lost the holiday season and we paid wages and rates and it’s worse this time because there’s no time off.
“They announced funding for the three week period but there’s no extra money for the extra week and you still have to pay all the salaries, it doesn’t cover everything and they made getting it very difficult.
“They understood it was simple, we would get it automatically, but you have to jump through hoops. This week is the deadline for forms so we don’t have any money yet.
“It’s been difficult. We’ve also lost holiday income and there won’t be anything coming until the end of January without any income since December. We’ve only been open since August.”
The Scottish Government has promised grants of between £25,000 and £55,000, based on the rateable value of the premises, to eligible clubs required to close in December and January from the Nightclub Closure Fund.
Hospitality bosses have previously criticized decisions based on the rateable value of premises.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are all too aware of the impact that COVID-19 has had – and continues to have – on Scottish business and the economy, including evening entertainment and nightclub.
“Our £375m business support package includes up to £113m for eligible hospitality and leisure businesses, including nightclubs, impacted by the necessary measures put in place to curb the transmission of Omicron.” They added: “We have contacted nightclubs that have already received COVID-19 financial support to complete an application for the Nightclub Closure Fund and payments will be made within 14 days of receipt of eligible applications. .”