Long queues as Tasmania’s nightclubs return
Tasmania’s nightclub patrons began leaping into action when the venues were allowed to re-open from 5 pm last Friday (December 11).
Like most other nightclubs in Hobart and Launceston, The Cargo Bar Salamanca moved quickly for DJs to return just hours after the government announced restrictions lifted a few days earlier.
The Grand Poobah said DJs and patrons had begun ringing them excitedly about wanting to be first in the queue as soon as the announcement occurred.
On the weekend, when the club hosted a burlesque night and a Slaughterhaus Surf Cult EP launch, a dedicated security guard was ensuring patrons were properly socially distancing.
According to the new rules, dancing and ‘stand up’ drinking are permitted for 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors.
Premier Peter Gutwein gave nightclub and venue operators the options of creating their own ambience, as long as it was allowed by the relaxed density limit of one person per two square metres.
“For example, if you could fit 250 people into your venue, you could have 50 people dancing, 50 people standing up drinking and you could have 150 people sitting down having a drink, as is the current rule,” he said.
Director of public health Dr Mark Veitch, pointed out: “This doesn’t allow more people into the venue, it just allows them to do a different activity within the venue.”
In August, Veitch had forecast the clubs might not return until mid-2021.
It’s not known how many clubs lasted through the shutdown, although many admitted JobKeeper and state government grants kept them above water.
Ian Vaughan – who looks after seven Hobart venues including the Observatory nightclub which had to temporarily close its doors – had been highly critical of the need to close nightclubs in the first place.
He stressed how they alleviated mental health, and asked why dancing was an issue when the state allowed contact sports and visits to sex workers.
He was among those who had told health minister Sarah Courtney about options to continue dancing while socially distancing.
These included putting spots on the floor, roping off the section, and putting a time limit on the floor of between 10 to 15 minutes.
Last week when the government loosened restrictions, Vaughan told ABC Radio: “It has been frustrating that we haven’t had the restrictions eased possibly a month or two ago, given Tasmania’s situation with COVID-19.
“Look, we’ll take it. Obviously it wasn’t perfect timing for us — it’s now a bit of a scramble to get the nightclub open.
“But we’re looking forward to welcoming all our customers and staff back to the workplace.”
Tasmania’s live sector now faces the challenge of regrowth, the possibility that some venues could still close, and the uncertainty of work for its 22,000-strong staff.
The Tasmanian Hospitality Association (THA) has an Action Plan.
Its president Paul Jubb called for venues to return to 100% capacity in summer so can generate enough revenue to see them through the quieter colder months.
He said: “The hospitality industry needs a hand up, not a hand out.
“We are urging the Tasmanian government to allow the industry to be independent and self sufficient, while maintaining the highest health and safety standards.”
Another urgent request was for the government to begin a ‘safe’ educational campaign as venue staff who tried to get patrons to physically distance were being abused.
Other proposals included a dedicated hardship grant for the sector until it returned to 100% capacity, and relief from payroll tax fixed costs of electricity supply (distribution costs) until June 30, 2021, and 50% relief from the fixed costs of water and sewerage charges until that time.
The THA also asked for financial help with an interest free loan scheme, a business continuity loan scheme up to $50 million, a business investment in capital works loan scheme up to $250 million.
It suggested a $2,500 grant scheme for business, legal and marketing advisory services to get advice on how to get back on their feet, as well as access to mental health support.
It also urged the government to get public servants back to working in their city offices, to help resume trade within venues.