Nightclub bosses and industry insiders have said that they are cautiously optimistic for their return, but are reluctant to begin planning until the roadmap out of lockdown proceeds in the right direction.
The government recently outlined plans for England to gradually exit lockdown by the end of June, with nightclubs provisionally permitted to reopen from June 21.
However, club bosses now say that they are reluctant to push forward with significant plans, warning that clubbers could have a little longer to wait.
“It’s difficult to plan without full details, but we’re getting set up and ready to go,” said Simon Jackson, the manager of Manchester’s 42nd Street nightclub. “We’ll be ready to go on June 21 and we sold out the opening nights in 10 minutes. But you’d have to be incredibly optimistic to think that everything will go smoothly. There have been more U-turns than I’d care to mention so far.”
He continued: “We’ve talked about bringing some special guests in for the first night, but it’s impossible to book anybody unless they’re willing to be flexible, so I think we’ll just have to go on with a classic 42s night.
“All the DJs want to be involved in it. We’ll have to take it from there.”
His views were echoed by Michael Kill, the CEO of the Nighttime Industries Association, who said that the impact of vaccination would affect the roadmap.
“There are caveats around the opening and they’ve cleverly worded it so that June 21 is the earliest,” he said. “I think everyone is aware that could slip without a doubt and most people are planning for just past that date. Everyone is still tentative and pleased they’ve got that date, but aware it could change.
“There is a positivity in ticket sales, but there are challenges and concerns about whether that date is too ambitious. We are waiting to see how things go when schools, workplaces and non-essential retail opens – that will show the impact of vaccination in the real world.”
Kill went on: “As we move forward, there will be an impact on transmission and how the rest of the road map could look. If vaccination gives us an environment where we’re ahead of the game, then hopefully we’ll have the same notion for those timelines.
“But people are quite happy with that, given that early estimations were suggested it could be August and September – it’s lifted people’s spirits.”
As for what the return of nightclubs could look like, both Kill and Jackson rubbished the idea that rapid-testing on the door could be the way forward.
“Testing on the door is not logistical in any environment, let’s be honest. But they are looking at nomad testing, where you’d be able to test yourself before you head out,” said Kill.
Jackson, meanwhile, suggested that it was unviable for nightclubs already preparing to welcome back patrons.
“I don’t know how it would work. We couldn’t have people queuing on the street and waiting to let people in, because we already get enough stick from the council for that as it is,” he said.
“If they want testing, the one thing I suggested is that they could set up is a central hub in town to get tested. Because otherwise we’ll get people turning up and telling us that they’ve been tested at a pub down the road.”
— Egg London (@Egg_Club_London) December 7, 2020
Another concern is the financial impact on nightclubs that have already been shuttered for a year.
“We’re reluctant to book DJs until the roadmap becomes a lot clearer,” said Hans Hess, the owner of London nightclub Egg. “But we don’t want to make too much of a song and dance about it because it could lead to disappointment.”
He added: “There’s still a long way to go until then and we’ll need reserves of cash. Most clubs are nearly at an end, and surveys have suggested that 80 per cent of clubs could go bust. We’ve fought through the last year, so now it’s just a case of seeing how the next few months ago.”
“For a club it will be impossible to open until all restrictions are eased. It will be a logistical nightmare if 20 people come up and one of them’s got COVID. You’ll have to refund them all and it’s going to be a nightmare. For clubs it will be impossible to test out.”
It comes after nightclub bosses previously told NME that nightlife will be “decimated” if government support is not received. An All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of 40 MPs also previously warned of “ghost towns” cropping up across the UK if the government fails to intervene and support the country’s struggling nightlife sector during the coronavirus pandemic.
This comes as a study has found that 70 per cent of DJs have had to retrain in other occupations since the start of the pandemic, with many fearing that they may not return to the profession.