Catalonia’s nightlife sector has announced that it will re-open from Monday June 21st, just before the traditional midsummer party of the eve of Sant Joan, on the night of the 23rd. In a statement after a meeting today with public health officials, the sector association Fecasarm explained that clubs and other late night venues will be able to operate until 3:30am, with half an hour more for everyone to leave. The body has indicated that dance floors can be re-opened without distancing while drinks can be consumed while seated in groups of up to six people indoors and 10 outdoors.
There will be a maximum occupancy permitted of 50% of each space’s normal maximum inside and 100% outside. Fecasarm is jubilant that the Catalan government has finally allowed the reopening, although it had requested it for an earlier date than the 21st. The Barcelona nightclub owner’s association warns that capacity will be reduced if tables and chairs need to be installed.
Fecasarm called the meeting "historic", after this very Friday the Spanish government gazette has published the health minister’s resolution giving Autonomous Communities the power to decide on the reopening of nightlife. The agreement has still to be approved by Catalonia’s Procicat committee.
Nightclubs with a total floor area above 500 square metres will have to perimeter the dance floor. Ramon Mas, general secretary of the clubs’ gremi, has indicated that they are "happy" with this "first step", although they expect more flexibility later. According to him, there is a commitment to review the conditions every two weeks.
David López, president of Fecasarm and the Barceloneta Maritime Front Association, also applauded the reopening, but stressed the importance of the fortnightly review in line with the evolution of the public health data. “Businesses are carrying a lot of debt and need to be able to make the most of the season,” he said.
The Catalan health authorities had already announced on Thursday that it would meet with the nightlife sector to agree on measures for reopening, and had reported that the return to the dancefloor would not be far away.
Public health secretary Dr Carmen Cabezas noted that they are looking for a reopening that is "the most appropriate for everyone," also taking into account the "economic recovery," she said, of a sector that has been closed for months due to the high contagion of the virus. In any case, they will be attentive to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.
On Wednesday, Spain’s interterritorial health council changed the restrictions on nightlife to "recommendations" and now it will be the Autonomous Communities that have the last word on possible restrictions in the sector.
The dance of the judges
For its part, the Catalan High Court (TSJC) rejected, by a majority vote, the appeal by nightlife employers’ group Fecasarm and endorsed the Catalan government decree of May 21st that kept nightclubs closed. For the court, the existence of risks to public health arising from situations of social contact is “unquestionable” and it considered that “reopening the clubs could have an very relevant impact" on the general population and the public interest that it has to protect.
The court referred to the “need to preserve fundamental rights such as the right to life, physical integrity and health protection”, which are part of a “common public interest that, in the midst of the pandemic, acquires an essential character”, and whose preservation must be the “main criterion” to be taken into account. Fecasarm’s appeal, filed on May 26th, had called for the suspension of the Catalan government's order to prevent the re-opening to the public of dance halls and nightclubs, music bars and karaokes, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Covid in Catalonia
As of this Friday, Catalonia has registered 693,316 confirmed cases of coronavirus (634,006 with PCR or antigen test), 1,479 more than in the count on Thursday, the Catalan health ministry reported on its website.
The total number of deaths stands at 22,219, five more than those recorded on Thursday: 14,134 in hospitals or health centres, 4,566 in residences, 1,183 in private homes and 2,336 not classifiable due to lack of information.
Main photo: Archive image of a group of people dancing in a nightclub / Unsplash - Axville