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No bouncer? No entry

Greg Devine


Small glitter ball on red background

It’s been a torrid couple of years for the hospitality industry, especially late-night venues like bars and clubs. Though pubs and restaurants also struggled during the pandemic, they were, at points, still allowed to trade. Bars and nightclubs didn’t have this luxury, and many had to turn their venues into makeshift pubs and takeaways in order to survive.

These businesses hoped 2022 would be the year they got back on track. They hoped that the money many people saved during the pandemic would be spent on socialising in the evening, on weekends and weekdays.

Weekends are certainly busier. I don’t remember Sheffield being anywhere near as crowded as it has become, pre-pandemic. Weekdays, however, are nowhere near as populated. I remember evenings during the week being incredibly busy, with students taking advantage of cheaper prices, but this isn’t the case now. Some nightclubs have chosen not to open at all during the week, and others have opened but with reduced capacity. The reason doesn’t necessarily appear to be a lack of custom but a lack of staff; in particular, bouncers.

According to the Night-Time Industries Association, three-quarters of bars, pubs and clubs are short of security staff. It's been suggested that the reason behind the lack of bouncers is down to the large number of alternative jobs currently available. Security roles are usually filled through the jobseekers’ scheme but lots of different jobs have been offered to these candidates recently—roles with better terms than nightclubs can afford to give. Bouncers, of course, are required to work anti-social hours, which doesn’t suit everyone. Those on jobseekers with a young family, for example, will undoubtably choose a job with more sociable hours than that of a bouncer.

Blurred lights in a nightclub

Blurred lights in a nightclub

The industry is having to adapt to accommodate this shortage of staff. Last entry is becoming earlier so that multi-skilled staff can be used throughout the venue in other roles. Clubs with multiple rooms are having to open fewer of them on their quieter nights, in order to save costs and give staff their required days off. Online ticket purchasing is encouraged, so that a ticket seller isn’t required on the night.

Sadly, the situation is probably only going to get worse. As summer approaches, so does festival season. Seasoned security staff will be keen to work at these festivals for the benefits that come with them, such as more sociable hours, increased rates of pay, and the chance of seeing a performer they like for free. Summer also means university students will return home. Students are vital for late night job roles, as they’re more willing to work unsociable hours.

Nights out are also becoming increasingly unaffordable. The cost-of-living crisis has meant people’s income is being tightly squeezed, which is causing many people to stop going out altogether. Prices in venues are also rising, as the cost of booze, energy and almost every other expense a club has are increasing dramatically. With venues’ prices rising and visitors’ spending money decreasing, further crises await the night-time industry.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to fix the issue. Ultimately, it’s a consequence of a weak economy and an industry on the brink of collapse. The only option as things stand is to continue the early closes and scaling back of events until the economy becomes stronger. In the meantime, an already bruised industry will continue to struggle.

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