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Government needs to appoint night time economy expert, says Parklife boss

Exclusive: Sacha Lord believes a nationwide adviser will help to boost the ailing sector

By Nick Reilly

UK nightlife has been hit by covid and rising energy prices

One of the UK’s leading nightlife experts has called on the government to introduce a nationwide nighttime economy adviser to aid the industry through one of its toughest periods.

Sacha Lord, who was appointed by Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham as the Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, believes that a nationwide voice will aid the ailing sector after it was hit by closures during the pandemic and now faces fresh threats in the face of rising energy prices. A recent report from the Night Times Industries Association (NTIA) claimed that a third of UK clubs closed their doors by the end of last year.

“One thing the government has lacked is someone who can represent hospitality across the UK and become a proper voice for the sector,” Lord, the founder of Manchester’s Parklife Festival and Warehouse Project, told Rolling Stone UK earlier this week.

“It would have to be non-partisan and that’s because the reason I think it’s worked in Greater Manchester is that Andy Burnham allows me to say what I feel. As an adviser, if you’re not honest then you’re just following the party line. Over the last three years I’ve had conversations with all three parties and the one thing we share is a passion for hospitality. It has to be cross-party.”

Asked what the role would entail, Lord said: “You’d need to set out your blueprint of a vision to aid industry for 12 months and perhaps three years. Ultimately, that’s what you’d be accountable to.”

But would he be interested in taking the role, moving from Manchester to a national level?

“I’m really happy advising Andy, I really love it,” he said.

“I wouldn’t turn it down if I had his backing, but whoever does take the role needs to have the freedom not to tow the party line. It’s got to appeal to everybody and you’ve got to fight for everybody,'” he said.

“But even more so, fight for those independents. The little coffee shop on the high street has been forgotten about and they’re the lifeblood of hospitality. I’ve got no problem with chains, but seeing the same menu in every restaurant and the same furniture is very American.”

Lord also explained that there needs to be greater protection for venues such as the city’s Night & Day Café. The bar has played host to early gigs from bands such as Arctic Monkeys and The Courteeners, but now faces the threat of closure due to a single noise complaints from a resident who moved there during lockdown.

Sacha Lord (Picture: Alamy)

“There’s lots of people who move into a city centre for a hustling and bustling environment, and then they complain about it,” he said.

“Night & Day in Manchester is a really good example of how Andy Burnham allows me to say what I think. And what I think is it’s complete nonsense that a complaint from one resident could close down a live music venue. One that’s been there for decades and may well be the biggest grassroots gem in the north.”

Instead, he is calling on a nationwide introduction of the Agent of Change principle – which means that it is the responsibility of developers to implement suitable sound-proofing when building near an existing music venue.

“I’m seeing similar issues in London too, and that’s one reason why I became chair of the Nighttimes Industries Association because that allows me to step into other territories to help out,” he added.

Lord was speaking in London, the day after he hosted a dinner to represent the concerns of the hospitality sector. It was attended by business owners who have seen their livelihoods threatened, allowing them to voice their concerns to Labour front benchers in attendance including Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell and Deputy Leader Angela Rayner.

“I invited independent people from across the UK who were really struggling, because we’ve got to rebuild the sector from the bottom up,” said Lord.

“The government did some great work with business rates and VAT reductions during lockdown, but one of my major criticisms is that they only really dealt with big chains and corporates. When you look at the breakdown of the sector, they only make up twenty percent. So it’s the independent gig venues and the independent night clubs, they’re the one that make up the remainder and they haven’t engaged with that.”