Paris, France, May 2020 – Now that most European cities are gradually lifting lockdown measures, what will the post-Covid nightlife be like? What challenges does this novel situation pose to European cities? How to combine nightlife with the necessary sanitary precautions? Efus and its long time partner the Nightlife Platform (Plateforme de la Vie Nocturne) held two working sessions on the challenges and impact of the lifting of lockdown on nightlife, on 25 and 27 May. Both sessions were held online.
> Adapting nightlife to the post-Covid context
Local authorities across Europe are pondering how to return cities to a life as “normal” as possible whilst protecting the public against the coronavirus, which is far from being eradicated yet. This will prove particularly challenging as regards nightlife: the use of public spaces, consumption habits, partying patterns, social relations and nightlife tourism will undoubtedly change in the post-Covid environment, and local authorities must adapt their response accordingly. Here are guidelines and suggestions that came out of the working group sessions.
> Engaging with all nightlife stakeholders
When planning and implementing the key steps of the re-appropriation of public spaces by citizens, local authorities should engage with all relevant nightlife stakeholders, in particular owners and managers of nightlife venues and other professionals of the sector, as well as representatives of local residents and relevant associations. In particular, the safety messages must be clear and consistent in order to protect the public and ensure they understand and apply the necessary safeguards. But it is also important that local authorities base their message on evidence and tailor it to their local specificities. The working group suggested creating pop-up or temporary nightlife public spaces following the example of Bari (IT), where a temporary arena for theatre is being set up, and Rome (IT), where open-air cinemas are being discussed.
> Consumption habits and risk prevention after lockdown
It is necessary to develop risk prevention tools and methods adapted to the unprecedented post-lockdown situation. The working group suggested creating online spaces where party-goers would get professional advice on substance consumption. Furthermore, awareness and risk reduction campaigns can be carried out online.
Another aspect that local authorities must take into account is the hours during which nightlife activity takes place. Indeed, there is a risk that part of the usual nightlife activity shifts to later hours at night, which were hitherto quieter. In response, some cities have already suggested moving opening and closing hours earlier than before the pandemic, which could help entice partiers to adopt safe behaviours. Furthermore, local authorities must also take into account the probable increase in private parties at people’s homes, which are obviously much more difficult to control.
Yet another issue is that of the relationships with local residents. Already, some cities have noted increasing numbers of complaints for noise nuisance. It is therefore important that local authorities foster dialogue between night time venues and local residents.
> Ensuring people respect safety measures
During lockdown, the enforcement of safety measures such as physical distancing was by and large in the hands of the police. With the lifting of lockdown and gradual return to a somewhat “normal” nightlife, this responsibility will have to be shared with hospitality and other professionals who are in contact with the public.
In Italy for example, a public debate is going on over the role of volunteer “civic assistants” who would be tasked with enforcing safety measures during the day and at night.
The nightlife working group stresses that nightlife venue personnel need to be properly trained while recognizing that it may take some time to design ad-hoc training programmes.
> Many night time venues at risk of closing down
A number of working group participants stressed that many local night time venue owners and/or managers find the safety measures too heavy-handed and difficult to implement, and are confused by a lack of consistency between national and local/regional regulations. Some owners may not be able to financially sustain such restrictive measures and may well have to close down permanently.
Local authorities will also have to find the right balance between the necessary safety measures, the desire of some (the young in particular) to “get back to normal” and the reluctance of another part of the public, in particular foreign tourists, to venture out at night.
> Sharing experiences and recommendations
These two working sessions enabled fruitful exchanges among participants; they allowed Efus to identify the main issues at stake in the post-lockdown nightlife environment and share recommendations and examples of practices taking place all over Europe. They will hopefully be a source of inspiration for cities across Europe that are managing the delicate shift between lockdown and a return to normality as safely as possible.
All participants agreed that it would be interesting to meet again to discuss these topics in a few months in order to assess the long-term impact of the pandemic on urban nightlife and the effectiveness of the measures put in place in cities.