Has UK Nightlife Made Its Comeback After Covid?

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Now the World Health Organisation has declared the Covid pandemic to be officially over, is the state of UK nightlife the same as it once was?

Any news about the state of clubs in the UK – before and after Covid – had the tendency of being resoundingly pessimistic. The overall number of nightclubs had been falling steadily since 2006, with lockdowns exacerbating the downward trend leading to one in five closing since the first lockdown. It was reported by the Night Time Industries Association that 86,000 jobs had been lost in the cultural economy sector.

Lockdowns helped us see the true economic value of nightlife to the UK economy in a way we had not been able to before. With club closures and resultant job losses within the first year of Covid, the general perception of nightlife went from good fun at best or a nuisance at worst, to an important bastion of the UK economy.

“The total night time economy contribution equated to 5.1% of GDP – £112 billion. This contribution accounted for 1.94m jobs. HMT Revenue was equal to £50.5 Billion and a gross added value of £45.7 Billion,” writes the NITA.

Despite this finding, the same organisation has accused the UK government of intentionally destroying nightlife.

The post-Covid rebound wasn’t as V-shaped as we once hoped; the pandemic has led to a more insular society, where work-from-home is the norm and people understandably feel more queasy about spending hours in a closed-off, pathogen-ripe, sweat-chamber. 

Printworks successor, The Beams
Credit: timeout.com

And now, a cost of living crisis that is threatening all businesses with high energy costs and tighter consumer spending threatening economic sustainability. “I don’t really look past six months anymore,” Jake Farey, founder of Peckham Audio, tells DJmag.

Ticket sales have become more erratic, with the vast majority of tickets being sold in the 24-hours before doors open, a consumer behaviour that has been noticed across the scene.

Farey continues by saying “now more people buy tickets just before turning up. That’s the path the industry is going on at the moment. It’s not healthy for the scene to know that you’ve sold only around 50%-plus of tickets before the day of the event.”

Keep Hush ran a survey last year finding that only 25% of Gen-Z respondents were interested in going out, and only 13% of millennials, supporting Keep Hush’s ‘early retirement’ theory. Covid has brought forward the so-called retirement age from clubbing far earlier than what was once usual.

An empty Printworks. Photo by Peter Summers

So where do we go from here? How do we keep our beloved clubs and venues open? Because once they go, they never come back.

One way is to book tickets far in advance. On top of the savings you make in purchasing advanced tickets, it helps organisers prepare adequately for the event, and helps them to balance their books accordingly.

Another way is to support smaller and medium-sized venues with regular patronage. Supporting your local venue is now just as important as supporting your local pub or record shop.

But other factors are out of our hands. We have no say in rising inflation, interest rates, and the cost of living, and no one can individually reverse a seemingly worldwide trend of people preferring to stay in after lockdown life made it the legally-enforced norm.

We can’t turn back time and stop the dissolution of music scenes that occurred during the lockdowns, but we can introduce younger people to scenes and spaces that they didn’t have the opportunity to interact with when they came of age.

If you care about keeping your favourite venues alive, all you can do is what you can. Booking in advance, engaging in the scene, bringing in new recruits, and becoming a regular at your local, will make a positive impact if done on a large enough scale.

We might seem powerless as individuals to change or save anything, but power comes with collective action. As consumers, we have the power to make or break businesses, so we must be wise with our custom.

We can help you find out whats going on in London's nightlife by checking our Top 5 Events of the Week