When pandemic restrictions first began to ease for venues around the country, they began by allowing seated guests and activities, which placed the reopening nightclubs firmly off the cards in the beginning.
But that’s different now and some states and territories have declared the dance floor is back open. While we’re certainly not out of the COVID woods as a country yet, seeing the first clubs reopen is a positive glimmer of hope for the future of Australian venues.
It’s understandable why Governments may be moving at different paces, given the different rates of virus cases in different areas. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there was also a wariness from looking at what’s happened in other countries as they reopened.
“We’ve seen overseas, nightclubs is one area of failure,” the Prime Minister said.
So if there are still COVID-19 cases evident in a state, there will be caution about reopening the right way.
Nightclubs first reopened in the Northern Territory, a leader in terms of the easing of hospitality based restrictions. The territory now has zero active COVID-19 cases, and hasn’t reported transmission in over 59 days, according to the ABC.
Joining them last weekend was Western Australia, who moved into Stage Four restrictions as of midnight Friday. The eased restrictions saw changes in density requirements, moving from one person per four square metre to one person two square metres and also the removal of the 100/300 limit. Patrons no longer had to be seated at venues, and a contact tracing register was no longer mandatory.
This was a huge positive for the nightlife of the state, and was one worth celebrating. After three months of being closed, nightclubs jumped at the chance to open again, pulling everything together in a matter of days after the restriction change was announced.
In the Perth suburb of Northbridge, for example, the atmosphere was buzzing with excitement. Tristan Wroth, General Manager of Paramount Nightclub, told Bars and Clubs it was overall an incredible thing to experience.
“It was definitely a tight turn around bringing everything together in roughly four days, but there was no way we weren’t going to open as soon as the restrictions were lifted. We’ve got a great team here and it was great to have everyone naturally going that little bit further to get us across the line, both in preparation and on the night itself,” Wroth said.
“It was definitely a change of pace jumping straight back to 9pm to 5am – but the whole team is excited to be back. We party for a living, so to not have that, it was definitely hard for all of us. Being back now though we’re simply excited to be able to push forward and be able to get back to doing what we do best.”
“The atmosphere really was something new for me – I’ve been in hospitality 14 years now, I’ve done my fair share of New Years Eves and events, and I can confidently say I’ve never experienced something like this before. You could feel everywhere that everyone was happy to have the privilege of the decreased restrictions, and that it was incredible to have life feel returned that little bit closer to normality.”
On the same street in Northbridge is another nightclub called Magnet House, which was actually set to open right as COVID-19 restrictions came into force. David Heaton, Director at Capital Corp who own the club, told Bars and Clubs that it made the weekend opening all the more special.
“There was a real buzz in the air around Magnet House opening. And curiously, we actually think the timing worked in our favour. The club was supposed to open just as COVID restrictions hit, which was initially a devastating blow to staff and the team behind the venture. It turns out we had more time up our sleeve to refine the offering and pitch Maggie’s to a gorgeous, diverse crowd,” Heaton said.
“In the end, we opened up to a huge queue of people waiting to get in and lots of anticipation around the club in general. The opening weekend was a glittering success by all accounts.”
A ‘glittering success’ is definitely the best description for not only the Magnet House opening, but the whole state reopening their nightlife. Images and videos from the weekend shows nothing but ecstatic smiling faces and people generally happy to be outside. Capitol Corp also own venues in Fremantle, Perth City, Scarborough and Joondalup, and Heaton said it was the same vibe at all of them.
“The atmosphere everywhere was electric. It’s clear people are ready to be out and about. It’s fabulous to see venues being able to reopen safely, and the people of Perth getting behind their local bars, clubs and pubs. Across all of our venues we saw excitement and joy – people really got into the swing of things,” he said.
And in another win for the industry, the reopening weekend seemed to go off without a hitch, with no major incidents. The WA Premier, Mark McGowan, warned people to remain vigilant about social distancing, but said early reports show patrons are doing the right thing.
“People were well-behaved and there was good excitement and people doing the right thing across the state, so that’s good news,” Premier McGowan said.
But the industry positivity and progress wasn’t being felt at nightclubs across all states. Like it did in WA, last Friday also marked the day that nightclubs in Tasmania were allowed to reopen, albeit under quite different conditions to the western state.
Tasmania now allows up to 250 patrons per venue, given that the one person per two square metre rule is upheld, but doesn’t allow any unseated activities. So nightclubs could reopen, but there was to be no dancing, no pool, and no standing.
Sarah Courtney, the state’s Minister for Small Business, Hospitality and Events said they were taking a ‘glide path’ to avoid the risk of a second wave.
“I understand that this has been a very challenging time for many hospitality businesses, however it has proven the resilience and tenacity of our operators and their employees, and I can assure the hospitality industry that the Government will continue to work with you on the pathway to recovery,” Minister Courtney said.
“I am deeply aware that hospitality businesses have felt the full force of the coronavirus impact, however, we must continue a sensible approach forward as a second wave of the virus caused by moving too quickly, too early, would be even more devastating to the industry. I thank the industry for the way it has implemented measures to keep staff and patrons safe, and I ask all Tasmanians to continue to comply with the rules.”
Meanwhile, the latest state to allow the reopening of nightclubs is South Australia, who moved into Stage Three restrictions yesterday. As part of this change, there is no capacity limit on how many people can be in a venue, other than the one person per four square metre rule.
SA Premier Steven Marshall said that nightclubs may be allowed to reopen under this stage, but only after a “comprehensive COVID management plan has been put in place and approved by the Transition Committee.”
Elsewhere, there is still no confirmation on when nightclubs may be allowed to reopen, and what conditions that could be under. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berijiklian suggested reopening in August may be possible, whereas Queensland and certainly Victorian leaders have not mentioned anything.