community

Famous LGBTQ bar The Royal Vauxhall Tavern slams Boris Johnson's coronavirus advice

The CEO of south London's oldest surviving gay venue has criticised government guidance to "avoid" pubs without offering financial support.

2020-03-17

The CEO of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern has criticised advice from the UK government, saying it should close bars, clubs and similar venues outright instead of simply encouraging people to "avoid" them. 

James Lindsay, the owner of the iconic LGBTQ bar in London, said the current stance is confusing and "creating a mixed message," as he insisted the venue would remain open in order to support its staff and community. 

He called on the the government to close all bars, and like France, offer compensation to business like his that will be affected.

Citing the £400,000 bill his bar faces in business tax, he now says he is facing the real threat of laying off staff, promoters and DJs. 

"I appreciate the seriousness of the epidemic and the devastating impact it is having on people’s lives and the world, however, the position yesterday will have a devastating and detrimental impact on business, business recovery and job stability", Lindsay said.

"The position announced by the Government last night creates the worst position for small business, the hospitality sector and the night-time economy.

"Boris Johnson has urged everyone to avoid unnecessary social contact, to work from home where possible, and to stay away from pubs, clubs, theatres and restaurants. There is no mention of high footfall destination shopping centres, hotels and airports where the movement of social contact exists."

He went on: "As a small company, we pay £400,000 a year to the government as our contribution of our business taxes and the government’s dismissive approach in how they have approached the hospitality industry.

"The recent threshold on business rates has done nothing for my company which falls outside the set government threshold.

"It appears that all businesses, as with Royal Vauxhall Tavern as a small independent company has no support from the Government unless a government official or legal authority close or evacuate the premises."

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to unveil plans by the government to further support business, just one week after his first budget already announced an emergency package of relief for business impacted by the virus. 

The RVT, London's oldest surviving LGBTQ venue which has been granted Grade II listed status due to its significance to the community, is now supporting a petition calling on the Government to provide more clarity and transparency to the hospitality industry.

Read the full statement below:

James Lindsay – CEO/Managing Director, Royal Vauxhall Tavern

Updated company statement about the Coronavirus (Covid-19)

"Further to the Government’s statement on 16 March, I wanted to update you on our position that the Royal Vauxhall Tavern remains open for business and will continue to support the LGBTQ+ community. The decision has restricted my companies’ ability to trade.

"Advising people to stay away from the hospitality sector and avoid unnecessary contact when a closing enforcement with business interruption compensation would be the correct strategy. Creating a mixed message for schools to be allowed to open and encouraging movement of children and people is disturbing.

"I appreciate the seriousness of the epidemic and the devastating impact it is having on people’s lives and the world, however the position yesterday will have a devastating and detrimental impact on business, business recovery and job stability.

"The position announced by the Government last night creates the worst position for small business, the hospitality sector and the night time economy. Boris Johnson has urged everyone to avoid unnecessary social contact, to work from home where possible, and to stay away from pubs, clubs, theatres and restaurants. There is no mention of high footfall destination shopping centres, hotels and airports where movement of social contact exists.

"As a small company we pay £400,000 a year to the government as our contribution of our business taxes and the government’s dismissive approach in how they have approach the hospitality industry. The recent threshold on business rates has done nothing for my company which falls outside the set government threshold. It appears that all businesses, as with Royal Vauxhall Tavern as a small independent company has no support from Government unless a government official or legal authority closes or evacuate the premises.

"Frances President Macron has gauged the mood of his country correctly, putting in place a strategy which supports a coherent business approach. Ireland is supporting bars, clubs and restaurants financially.

"The Night Time Industries Association of which we are a member have advised not to voluntarily close the business unless we are strictly forced to do so by a competent authority. This is the position Royal Vauxhall Tavern will adopt, but we must stress, if you have an underlying medical condition then you need to stay at home.

"We understand our approach will not be shared by all and we respect this may be the case, we ask you to equally respect our position. Today because of the government’s position we are having to start to consider laying staff off. I have a duty of care to all my team, as well as all the LGBT+ performers, DJs and promoters who work with us and to keep them safe and keep people in employment."