PARIS (Reuters) – In a cavernous Paris nightclub, DJ Vinz set up his decks ahead of Friday night when French clubs will be permitted to reopen for the first time since the COVID-19 crisis erupted, although stringent rules mean many will stay shuttered.
For the past 17 months, Vinz has been unable to work, his salary largely paid for by the state while he kept to his nocturnal rhythm, unable to shake a more than decade-long routine as France suffered waves of COVID-19 infections.
“It’s going to be a special night,” Vinz said.
“We haven’t seen the public here for a year-and-a-half, so we’ll have to find out what they want to hear. We’ll rediscover ourselves and then have fun together.”
The reopening of nightclubs marks one of the final stages of unwinding a third nationwide lockdown imposed in April, though it comes as the Delta variant takes root to the French government’s alarm.
Strict rules will be in place at Le Duplex where Vinz spins his dance tracks. Revellers will have to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from the past 48 hours to enter, while the club will be restricted to 75% capacity.
Government guidance is that face masks are not mandatory but are recommended.
“It’s going to be a huge night,” Cyril Blanc, artistic director at Le Duplex, said. “We’re a basement club but I think you’ll hear us from the street because there will be loud cries of joy.”
Nightclubs have suffered for longer during the COVID-19 pandemic than almost any other segment of the entertainment industry in France.
At least 400 of the 1,600 clubs nationwide that were pumping out beats when the virus first struck have either closed or are in financial straits despite pubic financial support, said Philippe Garcia of the AFEDD association of nightclubs.
That aid will continue after July 9 for those nightclubs which cannot reopen. The industry forecasts three in every four will keep their doors closed because they would struggle to turn a profit at 75% capacity.
Clubs that are resuming operations fretted over the risk of disorder as they police the health certificates of party-goers and look out for fakes.
“There’s no better way to have a revolt at your door,” Garcia said.
Perhaps the biggest risk to the reopening is the Delta variant. Infections are again on the rise and the Delta variant now accounts for 40% of new COVID-19 cases.
The Spanish region of Catalonia this week announced it was reimposing curbs on nightlife, including closing nightclubs, to tame surging infections, especially among unvaccinated young people.
Right now, however, it was a feeling of freedom that so many clubbers craved, said Blanc.
“We know that in August, or September, they may tell us to close our doors again,” he said.
(Reporting by Caroline Pailliez; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Janet Lawrence)