Governments and health organizations, faced with pressure to reopen the worldwide economy, are beginning to lay out guidelines for the return of venues, nightclubs and music festivals after shutting everything down due to coronavirus.
With over four million cases worldwide, the reopening of the nightlife economy will be gradual. While scenes in China have seen nightlife cautiously return, South Korea’s initial club reopenings are linked to a recent spike of COVID-19 infections in the country, resulting in another nightlife shutdown. Given that, it feels unlikely live music, festivals and club nights will completely return in absence of a vaccine. Still, various governments, like Spain and Ireland, have outlined multi-stage plans to reopen clubs, music festivals and venues along with the rest of economy.
Worried about COVID-19 but itching to party? Check out our guide to safe partying when clubs reopen!
Here’s the latest on nightlife reopening plans around the world:
The US began an uneven reopening effort, with certain localities, such as Austin, Texas, and Springfield, Kentucky, pushing to open bars and nightclubs imminently. With the world’s largest concentration of infections and deaths, reopening efforts in cities like New York and Los Angeles will be carried out in phases, with nightclubs and bars likely being among the last businesses to open.
Italy, which had one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, has begun lifting its lockdown in stages. As of Monday, May 18th, bars and restaurants are allowed to reopen with restrictions around table spacing and masks required for patrons when not sat at tables, according to The Local IT.
By June 15th, live music events of up to 200 people indoors and 1,000 people outdoors can return, so long as there is assigned seating, with mask-wearing attendees sat one meter apart, DJ Mag Italia reports. Nightclubs were not acknowledged in the Council Of Ministers’ new decree, although Sicilian officials said clubs on the island can reopen on June 8th, pending government approval.
Germany has allowed for all shops to reopen with social-distancing measures, which has been good news for the country’s record stores.
Some Berlin clubs, including Sisyphos, have reopened as of Friday, May 15th, as afternoon beer gardens operating with a food license. There are strict no-dancing rules, with most of the bars to close around 10 PM. The state of Bavaria also reopened restaurants on May 18th, according to the BBC.
Germany currently holds a nationwide ban on clubs, theaters and cultural sites until July 31st. Events with 5,000 people or more are banned until October 24th.
The UK Home Office shared the 60-page document Our Plan To Rebuild on May 11th. It includes a three-step plan for phasing out the UK lockdown, with the first in action from the 11th, the second tentatively starting no earlier than June 1st, and the third potentially beginning on July 4th. Pubs and restaurants, under the category of “food-service providers,” are planned to partially reopen in that third stage. However, it also states, “Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part.”
Nightclubs are only mentioned once: “While reopening outdoor spaces and activities (subject to continued social distancing) comes earlier in the roadmap because the risk of transmission outdoors is significantly lower, it is likely that reopening indoor public spaces and leisure facilities (such as gyms and cinemas), premises whose core purpose is social interaction (such as nightclubs), venues that attract large crowds (like sports stadia), and personal care establishments where close contact is inherent (like beauty salons) may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections.”
Spain’s lockdown-easing plan allows some “cultural events” to take place starting this month. On May 11th, outdoor terraces of restaurants and bars will be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity and no more than 30 people will be permitted to attend indoor events, 200 for socially distanced, seated open-air events. For the final phase, planned for June 10th, the capacity for indoor events rises to 80 people, while outdoor functions can host up to 800 people in seats.
After South Korea recently relaxed social-distancing measures, including allowing clubs to reopen the weekend of April 24th, there’s been a spike in COVID-19 infections, forcing another closure of clubs.
With under 10,000 reported cases, Australia is considering reopening its economy. Restrictions around gatherings have been lifted in some states, and Falls Festival has announced its New Year’s Eve edition will happen with an all-Australian lineup, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports. Still, the country’s Chief Medical Officer stated social-distancing guidelines will likely remain in place until a vaccine, and Big Day Out cofounder Ken West said any 2020 events would face a battle to get clearance.
Borders in Denmark remain closed to foreigners, but museums theaters and zoos will begin opening June 8th. Bars, nightclubs and small concert venues will need to wait until sometime in “early” August for reopening, The Local DK reports.
The Netherlands Minister Of Public Health sent a letter to the House Of Representatives saying “mass events at national level” may only be allowed with the existence of a vaccine, AT5reports. Concert halls and theaters, however, will be allowed to take groups of 30, with previous reservations and social distancing, starting June 1st. Groups of 100 will be allowed to gather starting July 1st.
The Portuguese government has banned music festivals until September 30th, and it’s also getting involved in refunds for ticket holders, according to ECO. “If shows, scheduled between February 28th and September 30th, are not performed due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the government announced, “the consumers will be provided with ‘a voucher of equal value to the ticket price paid.'”
The Irish government’s 23-page document Roadmap For Reopening Society & Business outlines five phases with tentative timeframes, with the final stage (estimated date August 10th) allowing for “festivals, events and other social mass gatherings… where social distancing can be complied with.”
Businesses have reopened their doors, but a return to normalcy remains far off. For nightclubs that have been closed since late January, reopening to the public has brought with it cautious optimism.
At OIL Club in Shenzhen, a city that borders Hong Kong, crowd turnout is on the low side because some people are still afraid to go out, cofounders Yangyang Song and Huiyuan Sun told RA. “Many people aren’t willing to stay late for parties now, so events also end earlier than before,” they said.
OIL opened to the public on March 27th, the same day as several other venues including TAG in Chengdu and Loopy in Hangzhou..
At TAG, “around 10 to 15 percent of our customers are still hesitant to come out,” according to club booker Aymen Hajlaoui. “I can’t say for sure that we can recoup our losses, but if it continues like this, the outlook doesn’t look bad.”
“I didn’t think we could reopen until the end of April, so to do it by the end of March, the time of our six-year anniversary, was really special,” Hajlaoui said. Before the epidemic, TAG’s birthday was initially planned as a three-day event, but with restrictions loosened in the week leading up to it, the club celebrated by collaborating with Chengdu Community Radio for a small party. The radio platform was launched last year by Hajlaoui and Kristen Ng.
Other clubs in Chengdu, such as Cue and AXIS, are also back at it, but many venues have been asked to remain closed by authorities due to their location or capacity, according to Ng. “Live venues haven’t been given the green light yet, which means band gigs are still on hold,” she said.
Venues in Shanghai were among the nation’s first to open, with hotspots 44KW and Elevator welcoming ravers on March 12th and 20th, respectively. The city was one of the lesser-affected regions by the pandemic, though residents remain careful. Daily Vinyl, an appointment-only record store-cum-guesthouse, isn’t seeing as many walk-ins as before, but cofounder Endy Chen believes that will change as people take time to adjust. Chen, who also runs the labels Eating Music and Groove Bunny Records, is set to play at Elevator’s fourth anniversary on May 1st and anticipates a solid turnout.
Clubs are taking every safety precaution possible, including regular cleaning and disinfecting dance floors. Before entering spaces, people undergo mandatory temperature checks and scan a QR code on their phones that indicates their health status. Once inside, many keep their masks on.