With the government announcing that “betting shops and arcades” can re-open on 15 June, Bacta has confirmed that AGCs can make a comeback next month, with a clarification on FEC’s return date underway.
Operators of AGCs have been issued their call to arms by the government as Boris Johnson announced a return date of 15 June for non-essential businesses.
Included in the list of sectors set to make a Covid-secure comeback, the term “arcades” – confirmed by Bacta to definitely include AGCs – indicates that some, if not all, of the amusements industry can return to work by mid-June. The trade body, which lobbied for the industry to be included in the next phase, awaits further clarification on what the term“arcade” specifically includes.
“We are obviously very pleased to have succeeded in highlighting our members’ needs to government and that AGCs can be among the first non-essential businesses to reopen,bringing some normality back to the high street,” said John White. “We do, however, urge members to study the guidance in order to ensure customer and staff safety at all times. If there are any queries, the Bacta team is always available to help.” He continued: “The next step is to ensure that the other businesses we represent can also reopen swiftly and safely. We are holding Divisional meetings this week via Zoom to include as many members as possible and we will continue to update everyone via Twitter and our website and newsletters. We appreciate the sacrifices that everyone in the industry has made during this terrible crisis and would like to thank the membership for their support.”
It’s a view echoed by other associations including the Gambling Business Group whose chief executive Peter Hannibal noted: “We have successfully campaigned for arcades and LBOs to reopen in Stage 2 and the government’s confirmation is a positive reflection of the work the industry has done to convey its importance to local economies. We will continue to press for FECs and other large venues to be able to re-open as soon as possible.” He added: “Operators now need to work through the government guidelines and get their businesses ready to open on June 15.”
Meanwhile, pubs, hotels, bingo halls, and leisure centres such as bowling alleys and soft play will have to wait for the next phase to have a chance at reopening. The government has also indicated that the 15 June reopening is reversible, and that this may occur on a more local scale if the outbreak flares up in a particular region.
“We will have local lockdowns in future where there are flare-ups and we have a system we are putting in place with a combination of Public Health England and the new joint bio-security centre, along with the local directors of public health who play an absolutely crucial role in the decision-making in the system to make sure if there is a local flare-up there is a local lockdown,” said Matt Hancock earlier this week.
As it stands, the North West is the region worst affected by the virus, with Blackpool the sixth worst in the UK with 445 cases per 100k population.
While the FEC operators await clarification on their potential return, the entire industry will need further clarification on how the government will support businesses forced to close again due to local lockdowns.