Firstly can I remind all members that our Annual General Meeting and Convention is on Thursday. If you haven’t registered yet then please do so. We will be sending the final pack of papers to you tomorrow.
- Several members have been in touch asking when the current lockdown ends. It is 00.01 on Wednesday 2nd December. It was originally Thursday 3rd December but it looks like there has been some mix up within government somewhere – whatever it is definitely the 2nd.
- Following on from the announcement yesterday of the situation with Tiers a number of members have asked why AGCs were treated differently to bookies.
- Both bacta, the BGC (bookies and casinos) and the Bingo Association held negotiations with Government over what additional measures could be put in place to allow venues to open in Tier 3. The Bookies have agreed to an 8 pm curfew, dwell time of no more than 15 minutes, no more than two visits a day, two machines to be switched off and no races too be shown on TVs.
- Bacta’s was prepared to offer a further concession on capacity but not on dwell times, Casinos and Bingo Halls similarly had a range of additional measures that could be implemented.
- From a commercial point of view we could not have gone any further and at the end of the day the Government was not prepared to allow us to open.
- We have nevertheless responded to DCMS and others to express our disappointment and anger at this discriminatory treatment and we will continue to fight for opening in Tier 3 going forward.
- It would be very helpful if members feel there are any further measures we could adopt that would be commercially viable, similar to that which the bookies have agreed, and which we could then offer to Government in return for permission to open.
- Additionally in terms of building pressure, as always it will be very helpful if members could once again write to their MPs to express your concerns about still being closed when you are safe. I have drafted another letter for you to use if you wish, below.
- I will also write directly to all MPs we know well as well as to the Covid Reform Group of Tory MPs opposed to evidence-less restrictions.
- It would be really helpful to hear from members whether the additional hour on the curfew has made any difference to trade in both arcade and pub sectors.
- Finally, could FEC operators now told to close in Tier 3, let me know what impact that is likely to have on your trade over the coming months, please.
The First Minister today confirmed that East Lothian district will move from Level 3 to Level 2 on 24th November, meaning amongst other things that amusement arcades in the area can reopen
- Similar to England, the fact that bookies are open in Level 3 with all their machines on is a running sore for AGC operators. We have made the point several times that consistency and equal treatment must be the principle the SG follows. Indeed it was the SG who insisted on this back in August when we first re-opened. There has been a changing of officials since then and I think the point has been lost. We have another meeting with SG scheduled this week and I will update you afterwards.
- We will also be raising the issue of support for the supply chain. Whilst discretionary grants are available, not all councils are being helpful (and the amounts are in any case a drop in the ocean of pain the sector has experienced).
- In respect of music in pubs I continue to press for news of progress. The issue is just not getting high enough up the political agenda to be addressed even though it is a simple thing to correct.
- Following our meeting with SG we will write again to all MSPs on our issues seeking their support.
- Whilst we are open and trading in Wales in the arcade sector and pubs are open until curfew, the long running saga of rates relief and grants for AGCs has reached yet another dead end. Our contact in the WG, a senior official on the hospitality side, who had been helpful, has been asking questions on our behalf. He has finally and very bluntly been told that conversations with bacta are at an end. The WG has told us that AGCs will not get the relief or grants and there is no more discussion to be had. This kind of childish finger-in-the-the ears approach to government says all you need to know about the quality of some of the people we are having to deal with. It’s as if they are frightened of being proved wrong, which they are, and therefore won’t even have a discussion.
Letter to MPs (England) – to be tailored to whatever Tier your area is assigned.
I am sorry to have to write to you so soon after my previous correspondence, but once again my sector is being needlessly targeted for closure in the latest round of Tier 3 restrictions announced by the Prime Minister this week.
I operate a High Street amusement arcade in X. We employ X number of people. [Insert further information about the impact of Covid -19 restrictions to date].
My sector and myself personally have been lobbying to have my type of venue taken out of the list of premises expected to close in Tier 3 areas. The reason is simple; we are safe. No cases of Covid-19 have been associated with these types of premises. We have few customers on the premises at any one time and on average they stay for is about 15 minutes. We clean our machines after every use. Customers are socially distanced at all times. Why is my business and hundreds like it unnecessarily being told to close threatening not only the business but the people I employ?
It is galling in the extreme to note the Prime Minster was happy to allow my High Street competitors to open. Bookmakers, despite a number of additional restrictions to their operation, will be allowed to have two of their amusement machines available to customers. That is commercially discriminatory and wholly unreasonable. I should also be allowed to open and offer the same customers the choice of where to enjoy their leisure time. As I have said, we are unquestionably Covid safe.
I would be grateful if you could make representations on my behalf to get High Street arcades open in Tier 3 areas as soon as possible.