Clubbers in Portugal eager to shake off the coronavirus blues will have to wait a little longer to dance the night away, as nightclubs were given the green light to reopen from Saturday but with early closing and no dancefloors allowed.
Costa’s government announced this Thursday that bars and nightclubs can reopen if they wish, but following the same rules applied to coffee shops and bakeries. They will have to shut by 8 p.m. in Lisbon and 1 a.m. elsewhere in the country.
Nightclubs, which were forced to close doors in March when a lockdown to fight the coronavirus was imposed nationwide, can use the dancefloor space for tables where people can ‘sit, relax, and grab a bite’ – as long as social distancing is respected. A detailed guide for establishments has been released by the government.
“There is a possibility for establishments like bars to operate like bakeries or cafes,” Cabinet Affairs Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva told a news conference, saying there were still “no conditions” for the establishments to return to business as usual due to the high risk of contagion. How establishments will shake up their typical way of operating and pursue these alternative business models at such short notice is unknown.
Worried about the future of the sector and the industry’s capacity to maintain jobs, business owners were not happy with the decision.
“This cannot be true,” Hugo Cardoso, the president of an association representing nightclubs and bars nationwide, told radio station Renancenca. “A nightclub that closes at 8 p.m.? A nightclub that closes before people arrive?”
Antonio Fonseca, the president of a similar association in Porto told Portuguese broadcaster RTP the government move was “ridiculous”. “It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Portugal initially won praise for its quick response to the pandemic, but a steady count of several hundred new cases per day in and around Lisbon in the past two months has worried authorities at home and abroad. Authorities said the number of cases in the affected areas have dropped, leading the government to downgrade a state of “calamity” across a total of 19 civil parishes around Lisbon to a category of “contingency”, the same level as the rest of the city’s metropolitan area.