The government’s continued enforced closure of the late-night sector is both illogical and without scientific reasoning, UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls has said.

Speaking at MCA’s The Conversation ahead of planned late-night crisis talks with business minister Paul Scully yesterday (7 September), Nicholls shared her frustration at the government’s inability to “get the balance right” in reopening certain areas of the economy.

“It all goes back to a political balancing act,” she said. “It’s this schizophrenia at the heart of government which is entirely understandable, but equally entirely illogical when you try and boil it down.

“There’s a public health crisis, there’s an economic crisis and a jobs crisis, and the government is trying to deal with and get the balance right between all three.”

Caused primarily by concerns from the health community, Nicholls added that there is a clear “political understanding” of late-night as a challenge, leading to the assumption “for no logical or scientific reason” that nightclubs, concert and music venues are too risky to be able to open.

“There is that frustration of looking at areas in isolation, and then comparing them to equivalent activities,” she said.

“Why is it right that you can get on a plane and sit next to somebody for quite a long period of time, but it’s too risky to have six people sitting together in a restaurant if they’re not from the same family? Or it’s too risky to have young people at events?

“We just need to fight and double down even harder to make sure that we can address all of those illogicalities and do it in a very grown up, pragmatic, sensible way so that we can move forward.”

Also in attendance at the crisis talks, Deltic CEO Peter Marks added that in order to ensure the late-night sector is able to survive, government needs to “work with actualities” over perceptions.

“There seems to be this unquestioned acceptance that nightclubs cause terrible viral spreads, and this then gets itself onto the news and suddenly becomes gospel,” he said. “And I think it’s completely wrong.”

Of the opinion that various governments choosing to continue the closure of nightclubs are doing so to control public perception of their handling of the crisis, Marks recently commissioned a scientific report alongside other late-night operators to demonstrate their ability to reopen safely.

And with the report in tow, Marks said that a priority of the crisis talks will be to get ministers to work with operators, and their commissioned scientific experts, to facilitate a reopening strategy.

“The first thing we’d like to do is try to get government to sit down with our experts to agree a path for us being able to open in some manner,” he said. “The second point is that we’ve been waiting to try and understand what financial help was coming our way.

“We are now absolutely at the back of the queue. We want economic help and we need economic help.”