Club owner calls for support rather than contempt for late-night sector

By Amelie Maurice-Jones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Support not contempt: The late-night sector is undervalued and should be better supported, said Kenneth Wright.
Support not contempt: The late-night sector is undervalued and should be better supported, said Kenneth Wright.

Related tags: Finance, Social responsibility, Late-night venues, London, Night time economy

The late-night sector, which is “still in recovery mode” from lockdown, is treated with “contempt” and a “lack of support” from Government and local councils, said the co-owner of the Soho-based Phoenix Arts Club.

The central London club, which won the Best Pub for Late Night award at the Great British Pub Awards 2021, is renowned for its West End clientele and “entertaining entertainers”, according to co-owner Kenneth Wright.

Wright called for better support for the late-night economy, which he said was “incredibly important in generating an image of a city that will be attractive globally”, rather than “just an add-on, a nice to have”.

He said: “It is the late-night economy that renews the city, it repairs the city, it cleans up after the day shift, it makes sure that everything that should be working is working and is ready.”

Despite this, he added, the night-industry is treated with “almost contempt”.

He said: “No one seems to be that worried about when I sleep, no one seems to be that worried how a nurse or a doctor might get home at five in the morning, or how an airline worker might get to work at four.

“There’s a whole industry out there that is bringing a great deal of value to the community and looking after the community, and we need to be supported better.”

Out-of-touch Government 

Wright said he was “fed up” of being told by nine-to-five workers in Government how the night-sector should be run.

He added: “If they really wanted to take it seriously, they'd come and see us at 11 o'clock at night, not 11 o'clock in the morning.”

Wright said the Mayor of London’s “lack of confidence” in his hesitation to fully reinstate the Night Tube, combined with the fuel crisis, added to the hardship of London’s late-night sector which is “still in recovery mode”.

Sadiq Khan announced the Central and Victoria Night Tube will restart from 27 November, yet has not set reinstatement dates for other lines at night.

“It's difficult at the moment to convince a lot of the public in a city where there’s very little public transport to get them home at two or three in the morning,” according it Wright.

The city that never sleeps

Wright said it was not up to licensing officers to dictate a social norm, with the late-night sector fulfilling a need from working people to have a place to socialise after work finishes.

He said: If you worked in a bank, you finished at five o'clock at night, you go to a pub for a pint.

“Why should it be any different for people who work late night shifts, who are not able to go and enjoy themselves and socialise in a way that is not about dancing about making a noise?”

“[…] We are no longer a Monday to Friday, nine to five society. We are a 24-hour society, and we should be able to accommodate that need.”

Wright, who said socialising in the late-night sector should be “recognised and encouraged”, believes a full post-pandemic recovery for the late-night sector is possible by 2023.

By this time, he hopes “people will have a desire to come out and enjoy themselves late at night and not be made to feel slightly guilty about it.”

Related topics: Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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