- In Germany, Belgium, Portugal and beyond, governments are reintroducing stricter rules.
Clubs are closing and imposing new restrictions across Europe as Covid-19 cases surge and the threat of the Omicron variant looms.
Clubs will close for the next four weeks from this Friday, December 10th. On December 4th, the country recorded more than 51,000 new cases of Covid-19.
Republic of Ireland
On December 3rd, Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed that clubs—which only reopened in October—will shut from December 7th through January 9th. Martin assured businesses affected by the closure that they will be financially supported.
The situation in Germany is changing daily, state by state. On December 2nd, the federal government ruled that clubs must close in states where infections are high. The cut-off point is having at least one city or district with a rate of 350 new infections per 100,000 people per seven-day incidence. Berlin has a rate of 361.
Elsewhere, new club Tresor.West in Dortmund has postponed its December 11th opening to 2022. Bavaria, Germany's largest state, is currently in a three-week lockdown, with all clubs closed until at least mid-December.
In Belgium, clubs closed last Saturday, November 27th, despite having been open for less than two months. On November 22nd, Belgium recorded its highest Covid-19 figures yet.
Vincent Schmitt and Steven Van Belle, employees at legendary Brussels club Fuse, told Resident Advisor that a week before the closure the government had told them to either impose face masks for every visitor or test everyone before entering. After scrambling to buy the necessary equipment and hiring an off-site testing centre, the government then decided to close clubs a week later.
"All those new logistics procedures were financially at our charge, as the government did not provide any financial support," they said. "It's nonsense, as the decision seems only to be symbolical and not based on any statistics or reports showing that nightclubs effectively participate in the rise of the Covid-19 cases with this CST+ protocol. Again, clubs are the first victims."
Clubs are also currently closed in the Netherlands. On November 13th, the government imposed a ban on all events until at least December 5th. This was revised recently, with all cultural and hospitality venues now having to close by 5 PM for at least three weeks. As such, the ban on events has been extended until December 18th at the earliest.
"We are full with disbelief and sadness, once again the cultural sector takes a hard hit," Maastricht club Complex wrote on its website. "Once again we get muted. Once again the lights stay off and our doors have to remain closed, but we'll come back stronger! It was six lovely weeks, thank you beautiful club goers!"
In Portugal, where new restrictions came into force at midnight on December 1st, clubs aren't closing for the time being, but all attendees will have to present a negative test even if they're fully vaccinated. In comparison to the rest of Europe, Portugal's Covid-19 rates—cases, hospitalisations, deaths—remain low, and their vaccination rate is one of the highest at 86.6 percent fully vaccinated.
Gonçalo Riscado, director of Lisbon club MusicBox and spokesperson for the Portuguese grassroots music venues association Circuito, told RA that the government initially intended to make masks mandatory in clubs, but removed the requirement shortly after the restrictions came into force last night. Punters will no longer have to present their vaccination certificate, just a negative test, and Riscado worries that this sets a worrying precedent about the importance and effectiveness of the vaccine.
December 1st, was a national holiday in Portugal, but despite this, Riscado reported an average of 80 percent reduction in attendance in clubs the night before. "It was as though they were empty," he said. "I hope this number will decrease, and that the first night was the most difficult one."
The biggest problem in Portugal, Riscado said, is the lack of testing available. The government allows for one free test a week (compare this to the UK, where you can order a pack of seven every day), and in some places, pharmacies are fully booked for a fortnight.
"There's mixed feelings," Riscado said about the current mood in the club scene. "There are cautious parties, like myself, that think it's better to close than to operate like this. The government needs to consider heavily supportive measures. We are being used to force people to test a lot and that's important to control the pandemic, so we should be compensated."
On November 26th, the Czech Republic entered a 30-day "state of emergency" after registering record-high infections. The new rules mean nightclubs, along with bars, restaurants and casinos, must close by 10 PM.
Austria was the first European country to lock down in the face of Covid-19's fourth wave. The lockdown, which began on November 22nd, has been extended to December 11th. Clubs remain closed.
Clubs are open in Denmark, but all attendees have had to show valid Covid-19 passes since restrictions tightened on November 12th. This rule will remain until at least mid-December.
In the UK, clubs are fully open. The emergence last week of the Omicron variant led to new restrictions in England around masks in shops and public transport, while all new arrivals into the UK must take a PCR test, even if fully vaccinated. Everyone also has to quarantine until they've received a negative result.
The latter ruling, which came into effect on November 30th, initially sent shockwaves through the club community as promoters anxiously waited to see if performing artists were exempt. They are, for now.
Photo: Philipp Diebold
Update, December 3rd: Ireland was added to the list of countries.
Update, December 6th: France was added to the list of countries.