(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

With dance floors vacant, Canada’s nightclub life faces an identity crisis

The coming months could be unpredictable for nightlife as more people head indoors in the cooler weather

Paisley Nahanee is longing for those exhilarating club nights, the ones where bumping into a few old friends on the dance floor wasn’t considered a health risk.

But when the disc jockey and event organizer throws a couple parties at Vancouver’s pride festivities this weekend, nobody will be making close encounters beneath the disco light, under orders from British Columbia health officials.

“This is going be really different,” Nahanee said of two physically distanced Level Up! events that are restricted to outdoor seating of 50 people at the Clubhouse bar.

The parties are billed as “not quite like last year, but with the same spirit,” and without an overflowing dance floor it’ll certainly feel scaled down.

Instead of crowds numbering in the hundreds, guests can reserve tickets for up to six of their friends on the patio. Together, they’ll congregate in their circle — or “pod” — for a two-hour window before making way for the next round of partiers. It’s regimented, but for Nahanee, at least it’s happening.

“Partygoers just have to change their expectations,” she said.

“You’re not going to meet any new friends.”

A province-wide ban on dance floors went into effect last week after a number of COVID-19 cases linked to bars and clubs raised concerns over close contact. The move dealt another blow to the crippled local club industry that’s struggled to reopen in the midst of the pandemic.

Club operators in B.C. aren’t alone either. Any bar or venue with a dance floor as a draw might be forced to rethink how they operate with no end to COVID-19 in sight. In Toronto, large venues remain closed, while in Montreal nightclubs are back in business without dance floors and with limited capacity.

Morgan Deane, a New York-based expert in the clubbing industry, has called for a widespread reckoning with the future of nightlife.

“Everyone’s still operating in this modality of when COVID is over, everything will go back to normal,” she said.

“Things are not going back to normal.”

Deane, who’s spent more than 15 years helping launch new venues and run electronic music festivals, wants to see club owners stop seeking temporary fixes and instead look at ”completely reimagining” their business.

Her online guide ”A Light in the Night” serves as a roadmap for small clubs hoping to reopen during the pandemic. It compiles illustrations of suggested venue layouts alongside best practices made in consultation with industry professionals and health experts.

The guide’s encourages standard practices, such as enhanced cleaning and wearing masks, as well as mandatory temperature checks for all staff.

In the VIP section, the safety model suggests alcohol be stored in a ”bottle cage” that’s only accessible by the service staff to minimize contact. The new practice would add a barrier to the typical VIP experience where clubgoers shell out big bucks to pour from expensive bottles of liquor at will.

On the dance floor, various distancing measures could separate partiers, including circles on the floor that isolate dancers from each other and a double rope that keeps two metres separation from the seated area to prevent overspill.

“It’s really reimagining what a dance floor is,” Deane said.

“Not saying we can’t dance anymore or that there can only be lounges, but what can we do instead?”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases expert at Toronto General Hospital and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said the guidelines outlined by Deane are well thought out, though he’s still concerned about how they would fare in a real-world setting.

Many people still assume that masks are a fail-proof barrier, and Bogoch worries that could play out in the clubs.

“Masks might provide a little bit of benefit but not as much as people think,” he said.

“They forget that physical distancing is really driving it.”

He said it’s time for a “tremendous PR campaign” that encourages people to understand the roles of masks and physical distancing in indoor spaces.

“I don’t think there’s any easy answer here,” he said. “A lot of things are very easy to say, but just hard to do.”

Reza Afshari, a clinical professor at the University of British Columbia, expects the coming months will be unpredictable for nightlife as more people head indoors in the cooler weather. While that presents new hurdles that could lead to rollbacks in reopenings, he believes a collaborative relationship between the provincial government, scientists and club owners themselves could help endure the challenges ahead.

“Putting regulation in place is like a faucet that you’re opening more. If you see there are some side effects, then the speed of the running water should become slower,” he said.

“There is no rule that’s being written on a stone.”

David Friend, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An inmate at Mission Institution has had his request to reverse a transfer from Mission’s minimum-security prison denied. / Kevin Mills File Photo
Serial rapist’s bid to go back to Mission’s minimum-security prison denied, after alleged fixation on 2 female staff

Clifford Barry Howdle went on violent sexual-assault spree in 1999 while out on day parole

Edwin S Richards Elementary. Google Maps street-view image.
COVID-19 exposure at Edwin S. Richards Elementary in Mission

Parents received letter on Dec. 3, advising of exposure on Nov. 17, 18, 19, 20 and 23

Joe Fast of Abbotsford is on dialysis four days a week and has issued a public plea for a kidney donor. (Submitted photo)
Abbotsford man with 5% kidney function is desperately in need of a live donor

Joe Fast has a rare blood type and hasn’t yet been able to find a transplant match

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
COVID-19 outbreaks continue at 2 Abbotsford care homes

Tabor Home and Menno Home still battling the virus

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Chilliwack General Hospital. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)
Chilliwack mother upset about son’s alleged suicide attempt after hospital discharge

Rhonda Clough said 34-year-old son suffering with bipolar disorder should have been kept in hospital

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PHSA bought faulty respirators; spent money on catering, renovations: Dix

Such spending included ‘unnecessary, unbudgeted renovations’ to the authority’s headquarters in Vancouver

Most Read