Will we see more private parties? Or instead of dry ice smokes spraying out from behind the DJ booth, will that change to sanitizer spray? What will be the future of the Bangkok nightlife scene?
This week, Thailand moves into the second phase of “easing of restrictions.” Among others, malls are allowed to open. Restaurants have been allowed to open since the first phase.
Bars and nightclubs however, still have to wait their turn.
As COVID-19 is infected primarily through the mouth and the eyes, social distancing is the government’s strategy. Hence, at restaurants, even families are forced to sit at different tables, while couples are divided by glass partitions.
At bars and nightclubs however, keeping social distance is problematic, because the intimacy of close physical contact is integral to the experience.
“Bars are a place for socializing. We can’t do social distancing in a place for socializing,” said Herman Wu, a partner at Just A Drink Maybe. “All of my business partners believe that we won’t get back to the normal bar scene anymore.”
“We don’t know how different it will be, or how the customers will go out comfortably, even with the masks or partitions,” he added.
Waiting for restrictions to ease, some bars are already planning on how to provide social distancing in their venues.
“First step would be to do reservations only, we would have to space out seatings with limited numbers of customers and no more than four people per group,” said Yishu Long, Operations Director of two speakeasy bars, #FindTheLockerRoom and #FindThePhotoBooth,
“Face shields would be our preferred choice over a surgical face mask, because the customers would be able to see the smile of the bar staff,” he added.
But of course, adopting the partition strategy like at restaurants would defeat the purpose of the bar experience.
“If we were to be forced to use plastic partitions between people, it would be very difficult,” said Long. “Bars are a bit more dynamic, there’s no way you can do that. I mean, you can, but it would look cubical-ish.”
At Thonglor’s popular club, Beam, things get even more complicated, because it’s a dance venue.
“The key difference between a club like Beam and a bar is the social intimacy that we facilitate via sensory means, including music. It’s by essence a physical thing,” said Chet Chetchotisak, Director of 72 Courtyard where Beam is located at.
“Definitely, we’re not putting people in plastic boxes,” he added.
“We are focusing on how to bring it all back in a safer and more seamless way that does not diminish the experience, but even better it.”
Even if bars and clubs are allowed to open in a later phase of easing of restrictions, there will be several rules to comply with. Not to mention, the question of whether or not the people will return.
The Thonglor nightlife scene and boxing stadiums were the two main clusters where the virus earlier spread. In early March, 11 people sharing drinks and cigarettes at a Thonglor nightlife spot became infected.