Cathedral Hotel and Chapel Nightclub in Salisbury talk Covid-19

ALL areas of the economy have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and the night time sector is no exception.

The future of Salisbury’s nightlife however is unknown, with 10pm curfews impacting business and the city’s nightclub instructed to remain closed for at least another six months.

The Chapel Nightclub team has not been advised by Government how it can survive an extended closure, and according to its owner the site in Milford Street has not received financial backing or support throughout the whole of the pandemic.

Owner Amanda Newbery told the Journal that the venue was “too big” to receive a hospitality grant, and after failing to receive three arts grants she is “waiting to see what is coming”.

She said: “Nightclubs should have been told right at the beginning of lockdown; you are not opening at all and how much do you need.

“We are the only sector that has been closed the whole way through. All these industries and people are receiving support when we have been shut for months.

“We’ve had to borrow money because we’re waiting to be told what we can do. We have gone back to the Government again for a support package to keep us closed, we just need to know if the Government will help us if we are to stay shut until next summer.” 

She added: “[Nightclubs] are part of an eco-system – you lose them and you lose the chain around it like going to other venues, taxis home, buying food – when that offer is gone the rest will fall away.

“It is stupid to keep borrowing if there is no nightclub promise – we need to know whether there is a roadmap or are we to shut down.”

Before the coronavirus lockdown hit Salisbury, Amanda said there was a surge in clubbing in the first two months of 2020, and it is a type of youth culture that should be treated as importantly as the arts and hospitality.

“When this pandemic falls we will need more night time economy than less,” she added.

“We know what we could do but we need to understand what the finances are around it and what the guidance is around it.”

Amanda added that The Chapel “is not just a nightclub” as it regularly hosts community events free of charge during the day.

The venue will not reopen however, until it can be fun for its guests.

She said: “Here we offer something fun and safe, somewhere to come after a bad day at school or work without worrying, and we will wait until we can bring that element of fun back again.

“Now we need to know how we can get to the other side and we will be there to offer a party.

“[The Chapel] is part of the community – people meet here, get married and have kids, and then their children come to The Chapel.”

The Cathedral Hotel, also in Milford Street, reopened in July and operations manager Tommy Roberts said takings were “level with last year until the 10pm curfew was launched”.

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He added: “Over time Milford Street has become the ‘late night area’ that people make their way to from the other side of town, at around 10.30pm.

“There is no scientific evidence behind this new curfew, and it is putting people on the streets at the same time.

“We’re fighting to stay open and trying to battle through this but we’re in a fortunate position – the nightclub scene won’t even get a chance to open any time soon.”

Across the Cathedral Hotel and the Old Mill Hotel in Harnham, both under Tommy’s management, around £10,000 was spent to make both establishments Covid-secure.

He added: “All we can do is make the best of a very bad situation, but if we go to the next tier it will be unmanageable. We would need to consider our options because it makes hospitality redundant.

“If we close we will give deposits back but there is no way to know how things change.”

Describing The Chapel as “the anchor for Salisbury’s night-time economy for many years”, Salisbury MP John Glen said: “It has been an extremely challenging year for the local economy here in Salisbury and no more so than for the night-time economy.

“Led by its inspirational managing director The Chapel has become a crucial business for the city and its enforced closure this year due to the pandemic has hit us hard.

“I have been in very regular contact with Amanda throughout the past seven months, helping her secure business support grants from Wiltshire Council and providing assistance in the battle with her insurer to secure a pay-out from her business interruption policy.”

Mr Glen added: “With the country experiencing a second wave of the pandemic, I fear there will still be months of difficulty ahead for the night-time economy. But I will be doing everything I can to help venues such as the Chapel through these turbulent times.”

Salisbury Journal | News