Why a 'nightlife czar' would be a great way to spend Town Fund cash

A Nightlife Czar for East Anglia could help pubs, bars and clubs across the region.

A Nightlife Czar for East Anglia could help pubs, bars and clubs across the region. - Credit: PA

After a week or so every Budget seems to unravel. But two weeks on — well past the honeymoon period — East Anglia still seems to have done OK out of this one.

The region received the best part of £100million from the Town Fund and a freeport to boot.

Off the back of this and the continuing success of the vaccination programme there is rising optimism in the business community.

But some sectors are still in limbo. 

Hospitality bosses say they expect to be busy when they reopen — but there is no guarantee they will break even while restrictions still exist.


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Those restrictions are in place for all of us and it would be wrong to remove them in one fell swoop but should we not compensate the people who they hit hardest?

If pubs, bars and clubs are unlikely to be profitable in the next few months, we need to invest in their profitability in the coming years.

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One way to do this would be to introduce nightlife czars similar to the schemes in place in London, Manchester and cities in the Netherlands. And could our Town Fund cash pay for one? 

Nightlife czars advocate for the night-time economy in their patch, with the aim of making it a more attractive destination. They develop and set out plans, helping businesses to network and provide a link between councils and night-time economy bosses.

In Manchester, the role is filled by Sacha Lord, founder of The Warehouse Project and Parklife festival. While in London Amy Lamé, a radio-host and entertainer, is in the hotseat.

Some people see the role as a tool for regenerating towns in the region. 

The East needs to be a priority post-Covid: here's our manifesto

The East needs to be a priority post-Covid: here's our manifesto - Credit: Archant

Paul Simon, head of policy and communication at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the possibility of a czar arguing for the continued regeneration of the Waterfront area.

But in East Anglia their reach could be far greater than just one town or city, something which has not yet been tried in the UK.  

Chris Rouse, a regional CAMRA boss, said that would not necessarily be an obstacle.

He said: "Although the concept of nightlife czars is a good one, they are more applicable to large cities, rather than the smaller towns and cities found in East Anglia. 

"A single nightlife czar for a county, or even the whole of East Anglia would make much more sense. 

"Coordination of pub and club policies across different councils and unitary authorities would help protect pubs and club from being lost forever."

The hope is that a czar could help pubs and clubs across the whole of East Anglia recover in the long run after being mothballed for the best part of 18 months.

The Fightback East manifesto

The Fightback East manifesto - Credit: Archant

Losing pubs and bars hurts the our towns, the region as a whole, and the country's bottom line.

The boss of a recently closed East Anglian nightclub estimated his business alone had contributed upwards of £2million in tax over the past decade.

Perhaps the most pertinent part of the czar's role, given the tragic killing of Sarah Everard, is advocating for measures to improve safety at night. 

This is a task that could not be accomplished by one person on their own and everyone bears some responsibility.

Danny Thurston, a supervisor at The Castle in Norwich, said: "We are a safe venue and if anyone is ever walking home alone and feeling uncomfortable that they are more than welcome to pop in the pub to wait to get picked up.

"Our staff would be more than happy to wait with the person and help arrange a safe way home."

But a czar would play the role of holding establishments to account and holding them to The Castle's standards.

And that would be the main benefit, a czar could bring all of the region's night-time businesses up to the mark.

To do so they would need to reflect the businesses they represent, like they do elsewhere.

By doing that they would let our pubs and clubs speak with one voice to get the things they need to stay safe, stay open and stay in the black.

And for that reason, for the region as a whole, this would surely be money well spent.

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