Help needed to save Hastings venues after delay to unlocking

The government has been urged to provide extra support for the business affected by the ‘eleventh hour’ delay to England’s planned unlocking.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 11:06 am
Updated Friday, 18th June 2021, 11:10 am

PM Boris Johnson has delayed the end to restrictions by four weeks from June 21 to July 19. Capacity limits for pubs, theatres and cinemas will remain but nightclubs stay closed. Gavin Shuman, venue director of the White Rock Theatre, was ‘very disappointed’ with the announcement. He said the venue could not operate while social distancing remained and other safety measures could be put in place.

“We are very disappointed with the Government’s announcement today,” he added.

“Whilst we understand the case for a cautious approach, the government’s recent research shows no correlation between live-events and transmission. In simple terms, as the research demonstrates, a visit to a show presents no greater risk than a trip to a restaurant, pub, cinema or supermarket.

Theatre Director Gavin Shuman outside the White Rock Theatre in Hastings. SUS-210617-100724001
Theatre Director Gavin Shuman outside the White Rock Theatre in Hastings. SUS-210617-100724001

Hastings White Rock Theatre cannot operate whilst social distancing remains; but other measures can be put in place to enhance audience safety, to give confidence and to minimise risk.

“80% of adults have now had a vaccine. 60% (including those at most serious risk) have had a second dose. Given the successful vaccine rollout and the data now supporting a return to live events at capacity, we urge the government to act as quickly as possible to allow us to reopen.

“The nature of our venue programme means that, even once restrictions are lifted, it will be some time before we can welcome audiences back to see a show. Each delay pushes this reopening date back further, with obvious implications for the local economy, our business and the health and wellbeing of our communities and staff. A trip to see a show is thrilling, joyful and fun. It’s an escape, a diversion and a release. It’s one of the few remaining shared experiences we have. And now, more than ever, it’s the tonic we need.”

John Bownas, manager of Hastings Barwatch, called for extra financial support.

He said: “Although we understand the need for caution at a critical time in bringing Covid under control, I can see local licensees struggling under massive financial pressures.

“The government’s financial support up to now has been a real lifeline and has kept many venues afloat. It’s absolutely critical now at the eleventh hour that more money can be found to prevent us potentially losing much-loved venues around Hastings.

“I’ll be talking to the council about whether any of the Additional Restrictions Grant money is left unclaimed and if so whether it could be used.”

Dr Jekylls, a new bar which was due to open four days after the easing, said it will go ahead as planned but with some ‘small changes’, including keeping tables in place all night.