Nightclubs have called for Government intervention amid a worsening shortage of bouncers that industry bosses said could become a “threat to public safety”.
There are fewer security workers as many left the industry while clubs were closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, EU workers leaving the UK after Brexit have also added to the shortages.
The Night Time Industry Association (NTIA) said last month that one in five night-life businesses closed or reduced their opening hours due to a shortage of security staff.
But it said the situation had now “deteriorated further” as demand from customers has continued to soar following the easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures.
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‘Threat to public safety’
“If shortages continue to get worse, there is a very real chance it could become a threat to public safety,” said NTIA chief executive Michael Kill.
“Like in other sectors currently seeing shortages, this is a long-term issue and decline in security resources can be tracked back at least three years, but this has been hugely exacerbated by the pandemic with many licensed staff leaving the sector when the bars and clubs closed and now choosing not to return.
“Brexit hasn’t helped either, but it is far from the only factor at play here.”
Mr Kill urged the Government to help the industry by funding training initiatives, streamlining new training requirements or tackling shortages through legislation - for example, by introducing a temporary visa scheme for foreign workers.
Under the UK’s post-Brexit points-based immigration rules, workers deemed ‘low-skilled’ are unlikely to be able to make it into the country for work purposes.
The NTIA’s requests echo what other industries have called for in recent months.
For example, hauliers urged the Government to streamline HGV driver tests and expand visa schemes in a bid to stem lorry driver shortages - an issue which had contributed to panic buying at petrol pumps in September and October.
The Government stepped in to help on both fronts.
In response to the industry’s requests, a Government spokesperson said it was “closely monitoring labour supply and working with sector leaders to understand how we can best ease particular pinch points”.
They also repeated the Boris Johnson administration’s commitment to “building a high-skilled, high-wage economy where employers make long term investments in their workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad”.
Security staff shortage a ‘pressing concern’
The bosses of nightclub operator Rekom UK (which runs brands including Pryzm and Atik) and bar chain Revolution told the PA news agency that the shortage is a pressing concern.
The problem has been “building slowly but has become so much worse since the pandemic”, according to Rekom UK CEO Peter Marks.
He said: “It’s been a real struggle at times but we’ve fortunately often been able to push back with security agencies to find the teams we need just in time.
“But even then, on one or two occasions we’ve had to limit numbers into venues because of security levels.
“We are in a particularly strong position though as we can agree to take on staff in larger numbers – this [bouncer shortage] is particularly hitting independent clubs hard.”
Mr Marks added that the shortage had led to a hike in staff costs of “around 15%”, as firms deal with a litany of other cost rises such as higher energy bills and rebounding VAT levels.
“But that is slightly different everywhere. In somewhere like Dartford where we are the one club, it might not be that much, but in big cities like Nottingham it becomes very competitive trying to secure those staff.”
Mr Marks said the problem comes amid “roaring trade” as people return to clubs for the first time since before the pandemic.
Rob Pitcher, chief executive of Revolution Bars, also told PA that the group has seen a “particular issue” hiring security staff for venues
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