Photo Credit: Philippe Levy Since 2014, the year of the release of his first EP…
Thank you to the nearly 500 readers who took the time to answer our survey, “Our Changing Nightlife & Covid-19.” Your additional comments—641 of them!—were enlightening and sometimes hilarious—cheers to you, dear commentator who wrote “Responsibility is the new acid.” We can’t cover it all here, but this report represents the most popular ideas for how to handle our industry in the spirit of keeping nightlife alive—eighteen months after the pandemic changed everything.
— How it Started, How It’s Going
On Friday I watched an acquaintance turned away from a San Francisco club after getting busted with a fake vaccination card. Meanwhile, a bystander yelled, “Get your vax, girl!” This exchange illustrates some of the challenges in the scene right now as a club and as a person. So much has changed since our survey launched on July 21st. It was published alongside an article exposing “breakthrough cases” at parties which was not widely reported in the media at the time. Electronic Groove’s knowledge came first-hand from friends, club staff, and DJs and kicked off an era that I’ll refer to as, The Great Let-down: The sudden realization that you can still contract Covid-19 despite full vaccination, especially with the highly contagious Delta variant. As a general population, the number of breakthrough cases is under 1%, but due to the close quarters at clubs, chances are it’s a higher number for nightlife.
Some events responded with their own safety protocols requiring vax cards at the door –– New York’s Elsewhere, London’s Secretsundaze, and San Francisco’s Monarch among the first to take initiative. Many individual restaurants and bars followed suit but it was New York and San Francisco local governments that finished what venues started by issuing an official mandate. Most considered this a heroic effort to get dance floors stirring again while a smaller minority felt their privacy threatened. All of those responses are reflected in the survey answers below so let’s dig in:
— Who is We: A breakdown of survey respondents:
The industry was well-represented with 60% working in nightlife. Of that number, 40% were DJs. About 39% were “club or festival-goers.” Media and brands represented under 1%.
Global representation was strong with respondents from Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Romania, Czech Republic, UK, Ireland, Sweden, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and all your expected major US cities ––but also cities like Buffalo and Honolulu!
It is difficult to talk Covid-19 without mentioning vaccinations. Since it’s a big part of the story, here’s the breakdown of respondents by status:
- 71% vaccinated by choice.
- 15% not vaccinated by choice
- 8% awaiting their second shot for full vaccination
- 3% not vaccinated yet (but not by choice)
- 3% vaccinated (but not by choice)
— Who knew?
When respondents were asked how aware they were of both vaccinated and unvaccinated club-goers contracting Covid-19 in the last 2 weeks (early July), 15% were not aware while at least 65% were at least moderately aware and the rest had slight awareness. In the optional comments section, 64 people wrote in “yes” or that they knew several while some admitted, “I’m one of them!”. Approximately 40 commenters knew no one who recently contracted the virus.
— Are we afraid of Covid at parties?
The majority of respondents, 60% were at least somewhat concerned about getting Covid-19 from a party with 25% of that lot being extremely concerned. Meanwhile, 24% were not concerned at all. The comments for those less concerned ranged from a few not believing the virus exists to those who genuinely felt secure vaccinations will do their job. Many mentioned they were masking up and taking other precautions such as only attending smaller or outdoor parties. For those who are concerned about getting Covid: Long-term Covid complications were a factor, quelling the pandemic was mentioned, as was at-risk family members. There were several comments from those who still chose to stay home until cases are lowered referencing high numbers in their region. Many said they would stay home until clubs require vax cards for entry. “I’m vaccinated. I want people safe. However, there are people who just don’t care…that’s the problem.”
— Should clubs stay open?
When asked if clubs should stay open despite rising cases of Covid-19, 54% said to keep clubs open while 26% disagreed and 20% were not sure. There was much empathy for industry folks who lost work due to shutdowns but there was also worry for people getting sick. Overall there was great emphasis on the need to find solutions since “it’s not going away”. Roughly 3/4 of the comments saw vax cards or tests as the solution and some emphasized the importance of personal responsibility. “Taking that extra step allows clubs to come back.” There was also some concern about fake vax cards and a few expressed how nightlife is crucial for mental health. Meanwhile, for the 20% who weren’t sure, this comment sums it up…“It’s complicated.”
— Who’s Responsible?
When asked who should take on most of the responsibility for preventing the spread of Covid-19 in nightlife, 45% said the individual party-goer, 24% named the government, 17% said the venue while 8% thought the local nightlife community, 6% voted for the promoter, and only a few mentioned media or sponsors. But the overwhelming sentiment in the comments was that it should be “all of us” or “everyone” or “all of the above”. One comment even linked all the players together: “Promoters communicate expectations for a safe event. Party people must respond responsibly. Event spaces enforce protocols at the door with tests, vax cards, and masks. The government must help fund the additional costs for nightlife to run safely while the media informs on issues and amplifies progress.”
— Show me the money!
Our next question asked, “How much do you agree with the following statement?: It’s the government’s responsibility to provide support and funding for clubs and events that cannot stay open safely now.”
77% moderately or strongly agreed and only 10% disagreed. Those vaxed and non-vaxed respondents felt similar on this topic but there was a bit of skepticism from the latter in the role of government at all. Many of the 77% expressed that it is shameful how the pandemic has been handled and thus government should help with repairing the damage. “If they can bail out the banks, they can bail out the clubs.” and “Clubs are part of society and culture just like sport.” A few comments (10 or less) called the idea insane or ridiculous, had no faith it would happen, or moreover didn’t think “government hand-outs” was the solution.
— Vax Cards & Passports: Oh the controversy!
Or is it? The data shows that most respondents at 60% would like proof of vaccination for entry into events. That number jumps to a whopping 75% of those who “support with some conditions”. From the comment section, it is obvious that those who want vax cards for entry are very enthusiastic about it. “100%”, “Definitely!”, “This is working in my city”, “I won’t go to a club until this is required”. Perhaps not surprising is that out of the approximate 15% non-vaxed respondents who took our survey, 95% of them are just as enthusiastic about not supporting the measure calling it “discrimination”, “hypocrisy”, “fascism” and an abuse of rights.
What the polarizing comments reveal is that both the majority who support vax cards and the minority who don’t, both feel strongly about protecting society and themselves but for different reasons. Whereas the anti-vax commenters view the measure as a loss of freedom. Those who support vax cards see it as a way to create more freedom for everyone. There is a wide gap between the two sides but these comments represent more common ground:
- “I don’t like it either but I think it is the best practice we got.”
- “We make sacrifices to keep everyone safe—vaxed or unvaxed.”
- “Yep, it’s your right not to have it, but it’s my right to attend a party with reduced risk.”
- “Its sad that some feel discriminated [against] but when it comes to global health––do what causes the least harm for the most humans. That’s why there’s no polio.”
- “No vaccination, but I’d take a test at the door!”
— What about other precautions to protect parties?
Out of a list of ten possible safeguards at events, the ones that were most tolerated included:
- Temperature taken at the door
- Showing a vaccination card
- Showing a negative test
The ideas that people liked least were:
- Wearing as mask (specifically outdoors)
- A VIP area for vaccinated club-goers
- Skipping parties and opting for lockdown
— Have behaviors and attitudes changed?
This question inquired if partygoers were responding in new ways. “Which of the following statements best represents your attitude toward attending parties considering the rise in both vaccinated and unvaccinated covid-19 cases?”
- 35% said “they will attend parties with at least some precautionary measures” and of that group, 14% said “they’ll take more measures than ever before.”
- 32% said “I will only attend events that meet my specific criteria (i.e. outdoor parties, small events, local events or where vax or test results are required for entry.)
- 14% will take “no precautionary measures at all”
- 12% will “not attend parties until cases are better under control” while the remaining 7% selected none of these.
— Summary: What did we learn?
Everyone wants to get back to dancing safely and the government should contribute funds to make it happen with 77% in agreement—an idea perhaps echoed by the recent “Unmute Us” protests in Europe. Most polled –75%– see vax cards as the main solution to keep the scene thriving. Many commenters suggested that the effort to ensure safety should come from “all of us”—from venues and promoters but especially from the individual partygoer.
What is disconcerting, however, is the 14% who said that they’ll be taking no precautionary measures to stay safe at parties, the 15% who are not aware Covid-19 is still spreading, and the 1/4 of party-people who are not concerned about contracting the virus at all. If we learned anything from this pandemic, it’s that we’re all in this together. If you are participating in nightlife in 2021, then you’re part of a social community and that’s why it’s more important than ever to embody those original old-school rave tenets: Peace, Love, Unity, Respect (P.L.U.R.)
To do that, we can start by peacefully acknowledging that Covid is still a problem. To solve the issues we must find common ground, work together and communicate—ideally in the global language of (peer-reviewed) science. And in the spirit of respect, practice empathy by acknowledging the needs of our fellow partygoers who may be immune-compromised, have relatives that are—or just want to feel physically and emotionally safe. Unity means making choices that are best for the health of the majority even if it’s not always comfortable for the individual. That’s the only way society gets healthier and eradicates disease.
So is there a happy ending in sight even when Florida has more cases now than ever? Let’s look at my home state of California. As one of three states taken off the CDC red list last week—San Francisco specifically—has been a model city. Maintaining the lowest death rate of any major US city throughout the pandemic, it went into voluntary lockdown last March before the state government required it. Citizens wear masks as a choice despite the mercurial CDC recommendations and most importantly, the vaccination rate is approaching 80%. In June, San Francisco made the news as the first city projected to reach herd immunity (not by getting Covid, by getting vaccines.) Bars and venues got together and recommended vax cards for entry before it was a government mandate. Most importantly, parties here are thriving again safely. So, for the nearly half of respondents that said the “Partygoer should be the one responsible to prevent the spread of Covid-19”, that’s exactly what is happening on our dance floors. More people are taking personal responsibility with the goal of protecting the community–– and it’s working.