You know the feeling—the one of anticipation as you descend into a dimly lit basement or traverse a corridor into a huge room where bodies are moving in time to the music. You might have enjoyed the bass, people-watching, letting go. Less so the queue for the bathroom or the bar.For many of us, these experiences are but a distant memory, as we’re now more than a year into a pandemic that has seen clubs around the world close their doors to stem the spread of the virus. Early on, some turned to online alternatives such as Club Quarantine, the name taken by two projects—DJ D-Nice’s Instagram Live party that saw Joe Biden, Michelle Obama, and Rihanna tune in, and the other hailed as “Zoom’s hottest new queer club.”
Elsewhere, United We Stream was set up as a kind of virtual venue to crowdfund for Berlin clubs, while other artists performed on live-streaming platform Twitch. At first, it was novel, but after a while, many of us were fatigued by staring at our screens and learned to accept that perhaps nightlife simply wasn’t part of the new normal. Now, the new normal is shifting once again. But what will clubs look like after Covid-19? And, most importantly, will they be safe?The Pat MacGrath Labs Mothership Ball at China Chalet, New York City, 6 September 2017“There is a good reason that clubs have been first to close and last to open in the face of the pandemic,” says Dr Paul McKay of Imperial College London, a scientist working on a Covid-19 vaccine. “During a pandemic, going clubbing just might be the most dangerous thing you can do.” Dancing heightens the breathing rate, which can increase the amount of virus that’s expelled. This, coupled with a lack of ventilation in most clubs, is what makes them so high risk. “It’s the same for gyms,” Dr McKay says, “but in clubs there is usually alcohol involved, meaning that inhibitions and social distancing are likely to be severely reduced.”
Clubs might be closed for good reason, but it’s led to some of the most beloved institutions around the world permanently shutting their doors. This is especially the case in the US: New York’s China Chalet—Chinese restaurant by day, fashion-crowd hotspot by night—was one such casualty. Eighteenth Street Lounge in Washington DC also closed after 25 years, as did well-known West Hollywood gay club Rage. Live music venues have been hit hard too, making it more challenging for emerging musicians to grow a fanbase IRL.Teyana Taylor and Naomi Campbell attended the Pat McGrath Labs Mothership Ball, China Chalet, 6 September 2017
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