Difficult awakening for the nightlife. After 16 months of forced closure, French nightclubs are again authorized to open their doors, Friday July 9, with a health protocol negotiated with the government (PDF). In fact, only 20% of nightclubs should take the plunge on the first night, according to industry unions. The vast majority of club and disco managers have given up on opening at this stage.
Because the health protocol is considered too restrictive
When entering their establishments, operators must require the presentation of a health pass to their customers. Clearly, three possibilities are available to the latter: have a negative PCR or antigen test of less than 48 hours (carried out in town or in front of the disco), be fully vaccinated for at least two weeks or have a positive test carried out. between 15 days and six months previously. Inside, where the gauge is set at 75% of the maximum number of authorized customers, the mask is mandatory for staff, but only “recommended” for party animals.
“We cannot reopen under these conditions”, slice Ivan Poupardin, owner of La Brocherie, in Roumare (Seine-Maritime), and president of the French Association of operators of discotheques and dancings (Afedd). “It is hard to see yourself refusing 200 or 300 people in front of the door because of the gauge or the pass”, he said. At the Play Boy Club in Biarritz (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), the management is afraid “gatherings and nuisances” outside, which would give rise to “administrative closures” and to “our pure and simple disappearance”.
Because club owners fear a low attendance
Will clients be vaccinated or organized enough to go to a nightclub? To date, only one in five French people aged 18 to 29 is fully vaccinated, according to the Ministry of Health. In this age group, it will therefore be necessary to massively go through the “test” box to obtain the health pass. “Young people, once or twice, will stick a cotton swab up their noses to go out to a nightclub, but they won’t do it every weekend.”, anticipates Morgan Dalle, at the head of L’Antique, in Béthune (Pas-de-Calais), on France Bleu Nord.
In some territories, summer is seen as the worst time of year to reopen. This is the case in rural areas or large metropolises, which become depopulated during the holidays, unlike the coastlines. “In Paris, the clubs rely a lot on foreign tourists during the summer, a clientele that we will have very little this year”, underlines Aurélien Dubois, president of the Union Chamber of Festive and Nocturnal Musical Venues (CSLMF). The former boss of the famous Concrete also wonders about possible public reluctance: “Won’t some people be afraid to go to our closed places, places of social coming together, where we dance and we kiss?”
Because the deadline to reopen is too short
The announcement of the reopening of nightclubs took place on June 21, after an interview between Emmanuel Macron and representatives of the nightlife. Operators have had less than three weeks since then to organize. “For establishments that work with well-known artists, the programming is done three months or even a year in advance, so it will not be before September for them”, underlines Renaud Barillet, co-founder of La Bellevilloise and president of the Network of current music of Paris.
Besides the question “untenable” artists to program, nightclubs have “very difficult to find the employees in post”, assures Ivan Poupardin. Despite partial unemployment, some have changed jobs or sectors, sometimes worn out by extended night hours. As for the seasonal workers, many have already found work in bars or restaurants, which are also struggling to recruit.
Because the aid is maintained in the event of closure
Financially, some have more to lose by reopening than by staying closed. With a tonnage of 75% and a possible additional cost linked to the staff assigned to sanitary controls at the entrance, “small establishments might not be profitable”, advance Aurélien Dubois, of the CSLMF. Larger nightclubs could also regret opening if the crowd is not there.
Faced with these uncertainties, the unions have obtained that aid paid to nightclubs for months continues to be granted to those who choose to remain closed, at least until the end of the summer. For the others, the government plans “a gradual and adapted withdrawal of aid”. “The best is to reopen a weekend and close if it does not work, to remain eligible for aid in full”suggests Thierry Fontaine, head of the Night branch of the Umih trade union. For Ivan Poupardin, from Afedd, there is no point in running: “We waited 16 months, we can wait two more, and why not all restart with a bang on October 1st?”