Long queues to get entry into the nightclubs, jostling to buy a drink at the bars and putting on dancing shoes to let the hair down used to define nightlife in the pre-Covid era. As the pandemic outbreak swept the globe, it shuttered the once lively music shows, nightclubs and lounges. It is not quite clear for how long the dance floors will have to remain empty but they are surely feeling the pinch. Bartenders, servers, DJs, bouncers and other professionals related to the operations of the nightclub business have felt a major hit due to the prolonged closure.
Recently, several major cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore allowed the reopening of restaurants, cafes and bars with restricted timings and limited seating capacity but nightclubs are still waiting for the green flag to be waved by the government. Especially in the national capital, with phases of new unlock guidelines coming every week, owners of nightclubs are waiting for the opening permission, owing to the decrease in the number of covid cases and increase in the number of vaccinations.
While the club owners are finding it hard to work out overhead expenses as customer inflow is slow, the alternate industry, including independent music artists, bands and DJs too are struggling to find gigs. A Mumbai-based DJ said that due to the shutdown, there’s a cascading effect because it’s also affecting the servicing industry and inventory management.
He said, “Till mid-March, everything looked normal and I was booked for several dates till May. They all got cancelled suddenly, and we have no new dates for reopening yet. But looking at the decreasing number, I hope the nightclubs are allowed to operate too just like restaurants and bars. I can surely say that artists like me are facing a huge financial crunch”
Akshay Anand co-founder of Ophelia, who also owns and runs ToyRoom in Aerocity strongly believes that the pandemic is not here to stay for a long time. “The vaccination drive is in full swing and almost all of the urban population has got vaccinated. We are sure that once we get permission to open the nightclubs, the business would return back to normal within a month's time. We are awaiting the permissions from the authorities before we finally open our doors to our patrons,” he said.
Anand along with the other stakeholders of the industry has requested the local authorities to permit the nightclubs to open during the regular timings and the owners shall certainly make sure that all safety guidelines are followed.
Currently, vaccination is the only hope for the popular dance floors, where the crowd is the only USP. Umang Tewari founder of Key nightclub in Delhi said that it is definitely a tough time for the industry.
Taking cues from his restaurants, he mentioned, “In the first week of post opening our restaurants has been welcoming and people are stepping out though there’s dip as compared to opening post first lockdown. But with increased timings and liquor permissions now we are expecting better footfall. The same will be the case with nightclubs, post-opening it will take a month for people to come back. However with nightclubs we can’t function with restricted timings, the mechanism of a nightclub can only work with liberal timings, however, it’s our responsibility to follow social norms and distancing within the limit allowed to us.”
Meanwhile, in the absence of a place to let your hair loose, the city party goers have managed to find their own party spot in the comfort of their home. Many have resorted to small weekly house parties with limited family and friends.
In countries where governments controlled the spread of the virus, nightclubs opened again relatively quickly, presenting a blueprint for the rest of the world. New Zealand and Berlin are the biggest such examples. Over the course of the pandemic, there has been much conjecture over what ‘safe’ nightlife will look like. While we wait, this moment might be better spent deciding how we want nightlife to improve. Nightlife as we knew it isn’t going to be the same, but that could be fertile ground for opportunity.