And we put the sound back on. Silenced since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, French nightclubs can reopen, Friday, July 9, in the tail of the deconfinement plan started in early May. Access to clubs and discos is conditional on the presentation of a health pass and the indoor gauge is set at 75% of the capacity. In return for this protocol, considered too restrictive by part of the profession, the wearing of a mask will not be compulsory for customers.
After 16 months of artificial coma, it is not time to party everywhere. The night world counts its missing. Since the start of the crisis, 55 nightclubs have been placed in compulsory liquidation, or about 4% of the 1,541 establishments in this category identified in France, according to figures obtained by franceinfo from the Spré, which collects the music license for the sector. In addition, as of June 12, 11 discotheques were in safeguard or receivership proceedings.
“The ‘combat deaths’ are those who had the most previous difficulties, sometimes linked to a drop in attendance since the 2015 attacks, or who had the most fixed charges to pay”, estimates Aurélien Dubois, the president of the Union Chamber of festive and nocturnal musical places. At the head of the Parisian club Dehors Brut, he himself saw his company liquidated at the end of May 2020, before the activation of the state support systems.
“The hardest part was the time to put in place the aid”, traces Patrick Malvaës, the president of the National Union of discotheques and places of leisure. After having had, the first months, to be satisfied with the measures of partial unemployment for the personnel and the solidarity fund of 1,500 euros, the nightclubs obtained a monthly aid of up to 15,000 euros. However, “many nightclubs had to wait until the end of October to see these payments arrive on their account”, regrets Thierry Fontaine, manager of the Loft Club, in Lyon, and president of the Night branch within the Union of hotel trades and industries (Umih), which represents nearly 1,300 nightclubs.
“For us, the ‘whatever the cost’ only arrived in November 2020.”Aurélien Dubois, president of the Chambre syndicale for festive and nocturnal musical venues
In December, the system was revised to allow better compensation for large establishments, with a choice of 20% of previous turnover or 10,000 euros per month. A new measure came to strengthen public support in March 2021: nightclubs were declared eligible for the “fixed costs” system, which now allows them to pay up to 90% of their fixed costs (rents, loans, energy bills). , etc.).
“Once arrived, these aids were lifesaving and made it possible to avoid a mess of bankruptcies”, underlines Henri-Pierre Danloux, owner of the Bayokos, in Alençon (Orne). “The cash flow has melted, but at least we’re still here.” In La Manche, the owner of Milton, Matthieu Lebrun, says he has lost around 100,000 euros due to the closure, but welcomes the “bol d’air” offered by these devices.
In some cases, the wait has been particularly long. In Vierzon (Cher), Stéphane Danetto ensures that he did not start to receive flat-rate aid until January, after having struggled to be officially recognized as the new owner of the Temple. In Millau (Aveyron), Georges Carvalho had to wait until February to see the color of state aid for his establishment, L’Exes, which had only opened in the fall of 2019. He was able to hold out for nearly ” one year thanks to the deferral of its rents and, to a lesser extent, to the development of a bar and take-out restaurant business.
Throughout France, nightclub operators have had to change jobs for lack of personal income. Some left to work in the construction industry or on a farm, others, like Stéphane Danetto in Vierzon, seized the slightest opportunity to “to cut wood, to work on the roofs or to dive, to feed [s]are two children “. From August, and until 2 July, Christelle Pain, manager of the LS Club, in Sérent (Morbihan), delivered packages for the UPS company.
“Resuming an activity quickly became necessary, both financially and psychologically. Without it, I would not have held.”Christelle Pain, owner of LS Club
Having returned to car sales for a three-month replacement in Saint-Lô (Manche), Matthieu Lebrun especially felt the need to feel useful. “Being called ‘non-essential’ was psychologically destructive, as if we were ‘no use'”, he repeats.
While the mirror balls are about to sparkle again, the actors of the world of the night believe to have limited the breakage. “The hecatomb did not take place”, observes Renaud Barillet, associate general manager of La Bellevilloise, in Paris, and federator of the sector committee “Night, festive musical places and life” with the government. “Some announced a disaster, with the death of half of the establishments, we are finally around 10% of places in real difficulty”, he notes.
Forced to “sacrifice” the VIP Room in Paris to save his club of the same name in Saint-Tropez (Var), Jean-Roch Pedri emphasizes that French nightclubs were not “the worst off” during the crisis.
“In Italy or Spain, the aid was less substantial and later. Lots of friends could not save their company.”Jean-Roch Pedri
If some establishments continue to lose a little money each month, others manage to be winners thanks to the aid and to amass a little cash. “So much the better if some can afford a little vacation this summer, families have been shaken up and many couples are struggling”, confides Thierry Fontaine, from Umih Nuit.
To reopen or not to reopen, that is now the question. According to the unions, “nearly 80%” nightclubs have chosen to keep their doors closed this summer, in particular because of a health protocol deemed to be a dissuasive for customers. The activity in urban centers promises to be weak, the operators fearing not to have enough customers because of the holidays and the few foreign tourists, especially in Paris, according to Aurélien Dubois.
“The discotheques which have the greatest interest in reopening are those which play their turnover in the summer, especially on the coast.”Aurélien Dubois, president of the Chambre syndicale for festive and nocturnal musical venues
The unions have obtained continued public support for the establishments that will remain dormant. For the others, “the aid will be paid in full if we make less than 20% of our usual turnover”, assures Thierry Fontaine, from Umih Nuit. “There is nothing to lose by doing a test weekend, to see if there are people and if it is profitable, while continuing to touch the solidarity fund”, he says.
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The President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, made an appointment with the world of the night in mid-September, for new developments. The future of public aid will be at the heart of the discussions. “The bulk of the damage could occur when the tap is turned off”, fears Rémi Calmon, director of Sneg & co, union of festive places and diversity.
“For establishments that have obtained deferral of rents, the catching up could be very bad.”Rémi Calmon, Executive Director of Sneg & Co
The unions are monitoring the case for the repayment of loans guaranteed by the State, which will “maybe give us a second shot in the spring”, according to Umih. Nightclubs are also worried about having lost value during this crisis. “I have colleagues who thought of retiring soon thanks to the sale of their establishment, but our business assets are now worth zero, everything has to be redone”, estimates Jessica Chapelain, at the head of Vogue, in Lorient (Morbihan).
Those who have chosen to reopen on Friday see the opportunity to ramp up until the start of the school year, where everyone hopes to see the lifting of health restrictions. “After this long break, you have to get back into the bath, says Jessica Chapelain. That’s silly, but we’re not used to going to bed at 8 in the morning anymore. “ The material, too, needs a period of revival. At the Loft Club in Lyon, Thierry Fontaine discovered that he had to replace the membranes of several of his speakers. “The stock of my supplier is not enough, I have to place an order”, he describes.
A few hours before the customers return to the slopes, excitement mingles with the fear of heights. “We are super happy to resume, impatiently Christelle Pain, of the LS Club. But there is a huge question mark over attendance, especially since summer is the off-season here in the interior of Morbihan. At worst, I’ll be alone at the door, but it will be open. I won’t feel punished anymore. “
Above all, the peril of the Delta variant makes some people fear a new closure. “I already live with this anguish, breathes Christelle Pain. I order stocks of drinks without knowing if I will have time to sell them. I’m really going to live each reopening night telling myself that it might be the last. We lost a bit of carelessness in this story. “