Dance-off

No end in sight for Latin America’s nightclub shutdown.

Nightclub operators have been hit the hardest by lockdown restrictions related to the Coronavirus in Latin America and there is no sign yet of them reopening.

Prior to the pandemic, the sector was already under pressure from higher rents in city centres, more health-conscious consumers who drink less and the rise of online entertainment and dating.

Restaurants, bars and nightclubs have been pressuring their governments to allow reopening as their businesses won’t be able to survive. In several countries, bars and restaurants have started to reopen with various safety measures or restrictions.

“If the schools have not opened yet, it is difficult to open bars and nightclubs.”

Local government spokesperson, City of Mexico.

The Mexican Association of Bars, Discotheques and Nightclubs (AMBDIC) has proposed a health plan that would limit venues to 40 per cent capacity with a closing time of 2 AM. This came after the president of the organisation, Helking Aguilar, warned that 20 percent of members are in danger of closing today and that would rise to 70 per cent by the end of the year.

So far, the local government in the City of Mexico has just made it easier for nightclubs to become restaurants. A spokesperson said, “If the schools have not yet opened, it is difficult to open bars and nightclubs. We know that it is a difficult economic situation and that is why we are giving them the opportunity to open earlier, with more open spaces and as restaurants.”

The owner of a restaurant chain, hotel and two bars in Colombia has concerns for the sector, “I think 50% of the bar and nightclub businesses will never reopen, but this could also generate new opportunities.” This relates to the number of businesses that can simply reduce their operating costs to zero by closing, “We have two bars and having them closed doesn’t cost us money but we will lose money if we open.”

“Peruvians will ignore any safety protocols, they go to a nightclub to dance, talk and shout through music.”

Event organiser, Peru.

We spoke to an owner of a nightclub in Colombia who is hoping restrictions will be lifted soon, “There are rumours that nightclubs may open again in December when they will still be following various safety protocols, but it will be easier to reopen when the curve is going down. We hope the vaccine arrives and makes a difference.” An event organiser in Peru is more pessimistic, “I don’t t think that it will be feasible to open nightclubs anytime soon. Peruvians will ignore any safety protocols, they go to a nightclub to dance, talk and shout through music. Even if they did follow the rules, it would not be economically possible to open given the reduced capacity and higher costs.”

For the time being, many businesses in the region are pivoting: nightclubs are becoming recording studios for online events, music bars are now chicken shops and bars have become restaurants or mini-markets.

We may be keen to get out and socialise, but these entrepreneurs and business people are even more desperate to have us back!

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