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West End club boss: ‘Government don’t know what nightlife is’

Manager at top venue warns of uncertain future due to Covid-19

11 September, 2020 — By Richard Osley

The Cuckoo Club has welcomed the likes of Rihanna, Jason Statham, and Gordon Ramsay

THE manager of one of London’s most fashionable nightclubs has warned venues are at risk of collapsing unless they get the chance to reopen.

Luca Maggiora at The Cuckoo Club, off Regent Street, said he feared he could lose up to 60 staff when the government’s coronavirus furlough scheme comes to an end next month.

“For us it really is a matter of survival,” he told a Westminster City Council meeting. “We don’t come from any rich background. We invested all of our money, all of our savings, into the business.”

He was speaking as the venue asked for its licence to be widened to help it make up for lost income during the lockdown.

Several nightlife businesses are doing the same, citing the “exceptional circumstances” of the Covid-19 closure.

While pubs and restaurants have been allowed to serve customers again, nightclubs are facing one of the longest waits to get up and running.

“The moment the coronavirus restrictions are lifted, we are going to be in debt of so much money that it will take us years to recover,” Mr Maggiora said, asking for later trading hours.

Luca Maggiora

“We’ve been closed since March 8 and we did not have any support from the government. We’ve paid rent, we’ve paid service charge. We put in furlough 60 people until the end of October. The expenses that we had during these six months were ridiculous amounts.”

The Cuckoo Club, whose clientele over the years have included a host of famous faces including US pop singer Rihanna, actor Jason Statham, and chef Gordon Ramsay, is looking to secure its latest ever licence. If allowed to reopen by the government, it wants permission to stay open until 6am and to sell drinks that can be consumed away from the venue, although not in the later hours of its new operating hours.

An ID scanner will be added to security.

Councillors listened to concerns from police and licensing officers and, during negotiations, heard the club agreed to drop maximum capacity to 300 after 4am.

Mr Maggiora, who has been dubbed the King of Hospitality, later said in a TV interview that the UK government had not done enough to help nightclubs.

He said: “They let hundreds of people sit next to each other on a plane, but nightlife? No, absolutely not. There are hundreds of thousands not knowing what the future is going to be: DJs, waiters, managers, bartenders, security, suppliers, cashiers, danc­ers. I don’t think anybody in parliament knows what nightlife is. They have a very wrong idea about what nightlife is about in 2020.”

One frustration among West End operators is that the rules have applied regardless of whether a venue is a traditional glitzy disco or a more opulent, less frantic, club.

Mr Maggiora insists that although he knows capacities will have to be reduced some clubs should be allowed to open with safety plans in place, similar to ones used by restaurants.

“Tell me, which business can be closed for six months or probably one year – because I do not think we are going to be able to reopen fully until a vaccine is found and distributed to all the population – and survive?” he told the Sky News.

“Only big companies can survive.”

The Cuckoo Club says that the longer hours it now seeks would mean that people will leave more gradually, reducing the chance for large numbers all to depart at once and cause disruption.

On off-sales, Paddy Whur a lawyer representing the club, joked: “We do like the opportunity to allow people who have spent, in my view, a ridiculous amount of money on a bottle of alcohol to take the balance and take it back to a hotel or a private residence.

“There’s no evidence that this, while we’ve been operating, has caused any difficulties.”

Councillors are due to release their final decision next week.

How VIPs will still be able to beat queues

FAMOUS faces enjoying a night out at the Cuckoo Club will not face the same security checks as other guests.

Operators asked for permission to allow 40 guests to be admitted without going through an ID scanner.

Committee chair Karen Scarborough asked about the exemptions. Paddy Whur, for the club, said: “It wouldn’t mean that we wouldn’t know that they were there, because all of those guests who don’t go through the ID scanner would be VIPs who we wouldn’t want to keep waiting in a queue.”

He said: “They are well known people and potentially celebrities. We just don’t want them to be held up coming through.”

PC Adam Deweltz said police had agreed the 40 limit on unscanned guests. “Certain high end venues will attract certain clientele,” he said. “Certain VIPs, celebrities, they wouldn’t ordinarily be asked to provide identification because everybody knows who they are and it wouldn’t be expected for their details to be recorded as such.”

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