Sarah Clover

“Diversity lies at the very heart of hospitality – the more varied and welcoming the offering and style, the more diverse and satisfied the patrons, and everyone wins”

I changed career from criminal law to licensing law in 2005, when the Licensing Act 2003 first came in. It was an inspiring opportunity to get on board with brand new law that had no precedent and represented the most significant change to alcohol and entertainment licensing since Wartime. I have never regretted it. Licensing is a flag that waves over a community of people that identify passionately with their vocations. Whether the licensing regulatory practitioners or the licensees and operators themselves, the hallmark of all of them is that they love what they do and care intensely about the quality and future of the licensed hospitality industry. It keeps us all working way beyond normal hours. 

Diversity lies at the very heart of hospitality – the more varied and welcoming the offering and style, the more diverse and satisfied the patrons, and everyone wins. Licensed venues not only open their doors to everyone but specifically lay down the red carpet to those they highlight as special, so that everyone can feel special somewhere. With the pride and fulfilment of such a career, however, comes the heavy price of pain when it all goes wrong.  No-one who cares at all about hospitality, in the form of our pubs, clubs, festivals, music venues, theatres and so much more, could have been unaffected by the events of the last 12 months and the impact it has had on this crucial industry.

The recent survey and report of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Night Time Economy bears witness to the huge support that this industry commands, but also the concern and alarm now universally felt about the future of many of these vital venues and events. There is no guarantee at all that the hospitality industry is just going to “bounce back” from the pandemic constraints. One of the ironies about licensed businesses is that the love and enjoyment that they inspire is not automatically commensurate with the revenue they recoup, which is not necessarily a deal-breaker in “normal” times but can spell disaster when the unexpected strikes. And nothing could have been more unexpected and unwelcome than the last 12 months. The passion and commitment that the industry drives, in operators and consumers alike, is the key hope for the future: that they just will not let their valued venues die. 

As the APPG Report highlighted, however, there is going to be some anxiety in choosing hospitality as a career for some time to come, and recruitment is going to be a key issue for operators. For any woman or gender non-binary person drawn by this industry who has ever felt that she might not have the skill or the talent required to participate or play a bigger role, now is the time to really internalise the truth that the most important factor is unified passion and effort. In many ways, there has never been a better time to get on board. No input at any level will be wasted in restoring this battered industry – every single contribution counts to get it back on its feet and provide opportunities for us all to get stronger and better together.