As nightclubs begin to open as bars under the amended coronavirus regulations, we look ahead to when they can open as something that resembles a nightclub pre-lockdown. Clearly, the activity of a nightclub is categorized as high risk and operators will need to go beyond the measures implemented in bars and restaurant to open safely. Nightclub venues will also need to go further than other types of businesses to regain the confidence of guests and staff.
- Whole-body sanitising spray
There have been several articles in the press about premises using whole-body sprays. Some use cubicles that a guest would stand in others a tunnel guests walk through. The Gateway Personal Protection Tunnel, which is designed and manufactured in the UK. https://www.gatewayppt.com/ and uses an organic, water based, dry-mist sanitiser which is sprayed on a person in only five seconds as they walk through the tunnel. It is environmentally friendly and is guaranteed not to cause any irritation to a person’s skin or eyes.
The sanitiser is effective in killing 99.99% of the coronavirus. It works by disabling any virus particles that are present on clothes or exposed skin upon contact, thereby reducing their ability to spread.
- Thermal imaging camera
Thermal imaging cameras have been in the news recently for trying to identify infected individuals in a crowd, by picking those that have high feverish temperatures. This makes it an ideal tool for use at the entrance of a nightclub, allowing large numbers of guests to be temperature check quickly in an unobtrusive manner.
- Venue fogging
Many studies have confirmed that COVID-19 appears to remain airborne longer than suspected and contaminated droplets containing the virus can survive on open surfaces for days. For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could last up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
There are devices on the market now that can clean the air and disinfect in your premises at the push of a button. This means that a venue can be thoroughly sanitised after each night’s trading.
- Air filtration
An air filtration is another way to fight the impact of potential risks such as airborne transmission. This is expensive and would likely require an upgrade to existing air conditioning units. The virus that causes COVID-19 is approximately 0.125 micron (125 nanometres) in diameter and any filtration system would need to be able to capture these tiny particles. However, the transmission of COVID-19 is thought to occur mainly through respiratory droplets generated by coughing and sneezing, and through contact with contaminated surfaces. The predominant modes of transmission are assumed to be droplet and person to person contact which would make air filtration a less helpful option in protection guests and staff.
- Gridding the dancefloor
One of the greatest challenges for nightclubs will be enabling guests to dance and still observe physical distancing guidelines. One answer could be to ‘grid’ dance floors. Markers could be placed on the dance floor to maintain one metre distancing, stopping dancers from becoming too close to each other. This is, of course, very dependent on your guests observing the separating lines.
- Transparent screens
Dancing is not the only aspect of entertainment in many late licensed venues. If a nightclub employs live musicians, entertainers, or podium dancers they could perform behind protective clear Perspex screens. This would enable guests to enjoy entertainment safely.
- Identity scanners for NHS test and trace
Many nightclubs already utilise an identity scanning system where guests must provide satisfactory identification prior to admission. An image of the identity document is scanned and retained, normally for at least one month. Adding information, such as telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, to a scanned image of a customer’s identity documentation will fulfil operators’ requirements for test and trace.
- Loud & quiet areas
It may be a good idea to create loud and quiet areas within a nightclub. This would enable guests to dance in one area but allow conversation in another. The current guidance is to refrain from playing music that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol transmission. Splitting a venue into louder and quieter areas to facilitate dancing and talking sounds like a good idea but may be difficult to manage in practice.
- Bespoke and branded PPE
There has been a lot of discussion regarding the value of PPE and, in particular, face masks. It does look, however, as if PPE will be part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future. In addition to preventing transmission, staff equipped with PPE can reassure guests and increase their confidence that a venue is well run, taking all possible precautions, and following the government guidance. Many night clubs already sell branded clothing and caps. There is an opportunity to create branded masks for guests and staff. Some airlines are providing passengers with PPE packs – a bag containing a mask, gloves, hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes. It is not beyond the realms of possibility seeing clubs doing similar VIP packs in the future.
Ideally you want to minimise the amount of property inside a nightclub. It is preferable for people to use cloakrooms upon arrival. It is worth considering sealed plastic boxes for guests’ items to be stored safely. The storage boxes should be disinfected between different guests’ use. After all, what is the point of having guests physically distancing within the venue if their coats and property are in contact in the cloakroom?
The new normal
At present we have no real idea what the new normal will look like when nightclubs can open and operate as actual nightclubs. There will be two main obstacles operators face. Firstly, compliance with whatever guidance is issued when the regulations are relaxed. The second will be restoring customers confidence and assuring them that they are safe in a nightclub environment. It may be that one or more of the measures detailed above will go some way to achieving both.