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Coronavirus: Government defends nightclub support as owners protest (Updated)

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Photo: Christos Theodorides

Nightclub owners protested outside the presidential palace on Wednesday to press for state aid to mitigate 60 weeks of compulsory closure because of the pandemic.

Scores gathered at the GSP stadium and drove past the finance ministry and presidential palace where they delivered a petition.

Under the government’s gradual easing of restrictions, nightclubs are due to reopen on June 10.

But Nicos Vassiliou of Pasyked said that cash-strapped businesses are being pressured both by landlords and banks and do not have the liquidity to resume operation.

He added that nightclub owners have received only 30 weeks’ worth of state support, even though they have been closed for 60. The remaining funds were essential if the businesses were to survive, he told CyBC.

This was denied by the finance ministry, which in a written announcement said that the 60 or so nightclubs making up the sector have received €4.8m in government support.

It said that €2.8m had gone to pay salaries so that the businesses could keep on their staff during the pandemic and not have to look for new personnel once they reopen.

“Statements therefore that the sector is the only one not to have been supported by the employee support schemes have no bearing with reality,” the finance ministry said.

Another €2m was paid in grants to cover rents, instalments and other operating costs. The first was a finance ministry scheme based on their declared turnover, was €0.92m and took into consideration that these clubs would not open swiftly because of restrictive measures. This was preceded by two others and followed by another two because restrictions remained in force, based on the number of employees, totaling €0.97 m. The last grant was paid on Monday, it said.

Statements that only half the help was given are unfounded, the ministry said. It also rejected statements regarding the number of employees in the sector, since the number of employees registered with social insurance is much lower.

The sector had also benefitted from other support measures such a suspension in loan repayments and VAT payments and facilities on outstanding taxes.

“Government support was in effect larger than initially officially requested by the association in writing. The government recognised the special nature of the sector because of the pandemic and provided more support than other sectors of the economy,” it said.

 

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