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Full statement from Preston nightclub facing investigation

Written by on August 4, 2020

A Preston nightclub has released a statement defending its opening night and saying they believe the videos circulating are ‘fake’.

The controversial move has faced backlash after Switch Nightclub was given eleventh-hour permission to open after “repurposing” as a bar on Saturday (August 1).

The Government was due to update its advice for live music venues to be allowed to reopen from the beginning of August, however it delayed the easing of restrictions after a rise in infection rates across the country.

Preston City Council had initially denied permission for the venue to reopen following Government advice, however the club then sought legal advice which successfully challenged that ruling.

The council has since confirmed an investigation is underway into the incident after videos emerged on social media from inside the event.

It comes as a stark warning was given from Lancashire’s director of public health, Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi, that Preston is likely to be a matter of “days not weeks” before Preston faces similar restrictions to those imposed in East Lancashire.

The city has now entered the top ten areas of the country with the highest weekly case rates of coronavirus.

Dr Karunanithi also called on the hospitality sector in the city to ensure that it was complying with “the spirit” of the rules on ensuring that venues are Covid secure. Without naming any individual establishments, Dr. Karunanithi said that there may need to be a tightening of the regulations governing the type of venues which can open.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the government wants to plug that potential gap in the [legislation] about the remit of local councils to [make those decisions],” Dr. Karunanithi said.

“It’s important that the business sector really plays their part in following the guidance and the legislation in spirit to help avoid the spread of the virus.”

Full statement from Switch

A spokesperson for Switch nightclub said: “On Saturday 1st August 2020 after six months SWITCH (Preston) re purposed its operation as a Bar to re open part of Regulation 4 the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No 2) (England) Regulations 2020.

“These regulations allow a business which is currently closed to re purpose its operation away from the closed business to trade safety, something which many late night bars and nightclubs have done up and down the UK across the last 5 weeks.

“Over the last 3 weeks SWITCH and its Managing Director have worked closely with Preston City Council to implement a wide range of safety features to its Bar operation including:

  1. Limited 400 Capacity (the venue has a 2400 square meter standing space and would normally allows a capacity of 1200 guests over 4 rooms) 
  2. Advanced PPE for staff including (Face shields, hand sanitiser, protective gloves)
  3. Clear safety and social distancing guidance and signage (on our website, posters, tv branding, floor stickers, table talkers, safety staff) 
  4. Seated and Standing Tables (positioned across the whole 4 rooms) 
  5. Enhanced signage clearly stating NO DANCING 
  6. Hand sanitising stations across the venue (40 in total)
  7. One way systems at our bars, toilers and smoking area 
  8. Enhanced cleaning inside the venue 
  9. Timed entry system

“All of the above, plus many more features have been part of our STAY SWITCH SAFE risk assessment and message campaign in the venue and on social media.

“Support fell away from Preston City Council on Friday 31st July 2020 when PCC visited SWITCH and delivered the message that PCC would act to close SWITCH if the venue opened on Saturday 1st August 2020 following some advise they had received. SWITCH then subsequently took legal advice from Malcolm Ireland (Napthens) and Leo Charalambides (Kings Chamber) who worked hard over the Friday and Saturday morning, and confirmed that SWITCH could open lawfully on Saturday 1st August 2020.

“That afternoon PPC emailed SWITCH and our legal team stating ‘’We have been counselled that the advice we received from the government was incorrect. Premises such as Nightclub’s should be able to repurpose their venues to enable them to reopen safely therefore so long as Switch reopens following the advice that was agreed between the managing director and PCC via e-mail on 30/7/20 the Council will not seek to close the venue.

“SWITCH and its Managing Director received two visits from Preston City Council and Lancashire Constabulary that evening, both visits included some changes to operations which were implemented immediately. PCC confirmed they were happy with both visits.

“On Sunday 2nd August 2020 a social media snapchat video (filmed on what be believe to be a fake account) came to the venues attention. It was filmed in poor quality showing (some girls dancing and dark images of waste height people within SWITCH). The video was poor quality and the angle that it was filmed (waste height) is very misleading and does not show a true picture of what the experience was like inside SWITCH on Saturday.

“There has also been comments made along the lines of ‘’Crowds of people on the Dancefloor’’ and ‘’Everyone was dancing on the Dancefloor’’ This information is purely false. With an extensive CCTV system inside the venue, CCTV images clearly show the venues amazing customer base adhering to social distancing and maintaining the venue safety guidelines throughout their visit. “

Switch included images of how it says the club looked on Saturday night, along with the “extent of social distancing and safety guidance inside the venue.”

The spokesperson added: “[Yesterday] (Monday 3rd August 2020) the SWITCH Managing Director had sent a report of Saturdays opening at SWITCH to Preston City Council (as promised) with reply confirming that PCC was pleased with the implementation of the Covid Control Measures at SWITCH and that they had reviewed the social media video’s and have no concerns that they wish to follow-up at this time.

“SWITCH continues to maintain its good relationship with Preston City Council and Lancashire Constabulary to make it’s venues operations a safe and enjoyable experience for all guests and staff.”

Investigation

Councillor Peter Moss, Deputy Leader at Preston City Council has confirmed that there will be an investigation into the weekend’s events.

He said: “The situation with Switch re-opening this weekend brought us a lot of attention and we would like to provide further information.

“Having received further guidance from the Government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards on Friday, we informed the operator of Switch that they would no longer be able to reopen August 1.

“Lawyers acting on behalf of the operators challenged this position on the basis that the venue was repurposing as a seated bar, which are legally allowed to open under the current regulations.

“The council sought legal advice from a highly experienced barrister. It was determined that the operator of Switch was legally able to repurpose and open as a bar, provided they followed strict safety precautions, including not providing a space for dancing.

“During the evening of August 1, our enforcement officers made two separate visits to the venue, each time working with the operator to make necessary changes. We are aware of the videos that are circulating on social media and officers will investigate the situation.”

It is understood that Lancashire Constabulary officers did not make visits to the club on Saturday but they have told the BBC that the reopening was “deeply unhelpful.”