Harrogate nightclub owner: ‘Government wants to kill us off’
Last updated Jun 13, 2021
The Viper Rooms' owner Paul Kinsey

The owner of Harrogate nightclub The Viper Rooms has criticised the government as the June 21 removal of social distancing looks set to be delayed by up to a month.

Perhaps no business in Harrogate has been hit harder than the town’s last surviving nightclub. It’s been closed indefinitely since March 2020, except for one night on Halloween.

The club has a ‘Covid-19 leaving drinks’ night planned for June 21 but media reports suggest prime minister Boris Johnson will throw cold water on the celebration when he makes his announcement later day.

Paul Kinsey told the Stray Ferret that delaying the date will be a blow for his staff and the town’s young people who have missed out on the social experience of clubbing.

“The government has no interest in whether we survive. It wants to kill off late nights”.

Major trouble

An empty Viper Rooms dancefloor

Mr Kinsey first opened Moko Lounge in 2005 followed by the Viper Rooms in 2007 and Kings Club in 2009.

He’s seen many venues come and go in the town over the years and covid meant Vipers could have been next. He estimates the shutdown has cost him almost a million pounds and said the government has offered little financial assistance to the sector.

“We employed over 200 people across the company but we laid off everybody except 16 people.

“If we hadn’t done that we’d be in major trouble.

“It’s horrible”.

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Mr Kinsey said the way the government has treated young people during the pandemic has been “cruel”.

He’s rehired almost a full team ready for June 21 but a delay would mean a nervous wait for staff.

“I’ve been around a long time so I’m sanguine about the reality. But kids who work with us have anxiety, are they going to have a job?

“These people have done nothing wrong. I can’t give them certainty or even hope.

“A lot of these guys have young families.

“By definition we’re social animals, but that’s drained away over the last 15 months.”

Viper Rooms had a £400,000 refurb 12 weeks before covid hit.

Yesterday, with press speculation that reopening could be delayed by four weeks, Mr Kinsey tweeted:

Mr Kinsey said masks and social distancing are contrary to the ethos of a nightclub and he will feel emotional when he finally sees Vipers packed with revellers — dancing and embracing each other again.

“It will emotional and exciting. It’s why we do it.”