‘Many reasons to panic’: Nightclub owners fear closures

‘Many reasons to panic’: Nightclub owners fear closures
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Business owners in the nightlife sector are upset about the proposals made by Belgium’s coronavirus expert group (GEMS) that were leaked yesterday and included the temporary closure of all nightlife.

Some club owners were in favour of only allowing vaccinated people to enter, according to De Standaard, but felt that requiring negative Covid-19 tests from all customers wouldn’t be sustainable.

“There are many reasons to panic, and a lot of nervousness in our sector after Minister Vandenbroucke launched his proposal,” Steven Van Belle of Club Fuse in Brussels told the paper.

“To the first part of his proposal, that we only receive vaccinated people, we want to cooperate. It is feasible and proven to be useful in curbing the virus circulation. But to mandate that a test must be carried out whether vaccinated or not means de facto closure.”

He said the mandatory testing proposal raises questions: “Who will pay for the test? Which test should it be? How do we organise these tests? If I have to organise this myself, here in a busy street, it simply won't work.”

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Sam Schnabel, owner of Club Vaag in Antwerp, said he thought that the proposal to only admit vaccinated customers would be feasible but not something he wholly supports.

“I would follow the rule, but somewhat against my will,” Schnabel said.

“For a long time, it was promised that those who take the test would still be able to go out. That is now changing. In my opinion, it will lead to further polarisation and encourage rebellion. Policy makers are in danger of losing the motivation of the population.”

Schnabel said that adding a testing requirement on top of vaccination would prompt him to close his doors. “The test centres are already overcrowded and PCR tests cost money,” he said. “It often costs more than what a young person spends in a nightclub. I am afraid that this way of working is not feasible in our sector.”

Covid-19 cases are on the rise as Belgium experiences a fourth wave of the pandemic, which is what prompted the proposal of stricter measures in the first place. Those proposals will be discussed at a meeting of the Consultative Committee on Wednesday.

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