I managed two sold-out, Covid compliant nights of my new jazz club before live music was effectively banned in this part of the UK
Possibly for the first time in recorded history, on September 25 2020, live music has been effectively banned in a region of the United Kingdom.
The NI assembly’s The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (Amendment No. 5) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 states: ‘a person concerned in the organisation or operation of an indoor venue at which intoxicating liquor may be consumed shall not permit at that venue (a) dancing; or (b) the provision of music, whether live or recorded, for dancing; or (c) live music.’
Almost all indoor live music takes place within a licensed environment — theatres, pubs, clubs. With three colleagues (all music/events professionals), I had started a jazz club in east Belfast this month. We managed two sold-out, rules-compliant nights before the ban.
The jazz club used the premises of a licensed Working Men’s Club, which benefited from (table-service only) bar sales; tickets included food provided by a neighbouring Bangladeshi restaurant, which benefitted that business; and the revenues provided pay for a sound/lighting crew and both pay and a now rare public platform for professional musicians.
In short, a carefully managed, spaced, seated environment was supporting the local economy, the local arts scene and — from customer feedback — enhancing the wellbeing of all concerned.
There is Covid-related wisdom in banning dancing but there is no difference between, say, 50 people seated in a socially distanced restaurant or ‘wet bar’ (currently allowed in NI) and 50 people similarly seated listening to a piano trio.
The music industry is being crushed as it is (‘Under-threat Northern Ireland music industry is not going down without a fight,’ Sep 28).
This legislation crushes the butterfly of small hope on a wheel.
It must urgently be amended.
Colin Harper, Belfast BT4
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