The boss of an Aberdeen comedy club has hit out after his application for support was rejected – forcing him to give up his car and move to a cheaper flat.
Naz Hussain, the managing director of Breakneck Comedy, applied to Aberdeen City Council for a support grant after additional funding was provided to the city following the local lockdown last month.
Hospitality businesses in the city, which were forced to close following a spike in cases which led to restrictions being reimposed for three weeks, were urged to apply for financial support.
Having not been able to open since the pandemic began, Naz applied for support – but was stunned when he was told Breakneck was not eligible.
The reason given by council officials was the club had not opened before the local lockdown began, and therefore was ineligible under criteria set out by the Scottish Government.
Now Naz has hit out at the “unfair” decision to deny Breakneck funding while other businesses which had been able to reopen before the local lockdown received support.
He said: “I don’t understand it because we have a bar and we serve drinks. We do curry and comedy nights, and at Christmas we do meals. We serve food and drink but we happen to have an entertainer, in the form of a comedian, on the stage.
“Businesses which opened after the first lockdown and then had to close again can get money – but those which have had to stay shut throughout don’t get a thing. The council need to be more flexible.”
After lockdown measures were reintroduced in Aberdeen, businesses in the city were able to apply for grants of up to £1,500 to help them through the period of closure.
However, after his request for help was denied, Naz revealed he has had to bear the brunt of the financial impact on the business on his own.
He added: “Things have been really difficult because we’ve had to shut down everything. I haven’t asked for donations or anything like that so I’ve taken the brunt of it myself.
“I’ve given up my car and moved into the cheapest possible flat I can get. Comedians are struggling too as some of them have got nothing.”
Breakneck, which has been operating in the city for a decade and was due to open new premises on Castlegate next week, hosts performers from all over the north-east and beyond.
And Naz said it would be a “tragedy” if it were unable to reopen.
He said: “If we can’t get any help and we’re not able to open soon, it could mean all our work over the last 10 years is for nothing. All the acts we have promoted will have nowhere to go.
“This is the only place in the north-east for up-and-coming comedians to come, unless they go to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“We do shows four nights a week – that would all stop.
“I meet all the people who come through our doors and a lot of them use it as a release for their mental health. It gives them a chance to have a laugh and escape from whatever else is going on.
“It would be a real tragedy.”
An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government’s Local Restrictions Businesses Support Fund is administered by the council but the rules are set by the criteria for eligibility set by the Scottish Government.
“It is open to hospitality businesses specifically instructed or forced to close on August 5 under the local lockdown regulations in Aberdeen or under the Discretionary Fund criteria to hospitality, retail and other related service sectors such as hairdressers, which remained open during the local lockdown but have seen their income impacted by travel restrictions and drop in footfall.
“Neither of these criteria applies to that particular business which had been closed since March.
“Comedy and live performance venues are currently still not allowed to open under the Scottish Government’s current Phase 3 regulation, this also applies to nightclub, gyms and concert venues who therefore would not have been impacted by the local restrictions and have also been declined.
“We have signposted this particular business to a new Creative Scotland fund which will be open to comedy venues. Businesses such as comedy clubs were invited to apply for a £25,000 grant from the Scottish Government’s Retail, Hospitality and Leisure fund in April.”