Australia SA's regional nightclubs reel from COVID-19 bans, with no end in sight

01:05  19 october  2020
01:05  19 october  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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a man talking on a cell phone: Nightclub owners Deano (left) and Vic Gentile want clarity over the roadmap for regional nightclubs. (ABC South East SA: Todd Lewis) © Provided by ABC Health Nightclub owners Deano (left) and Vic Gentile want clarity over the roadmap for regional nightclubs. (ABC South East SA: Todd Lewis)

Regional nightclubs in South Australia have been left in the dark as COVID-19 restrictions which prohibit dancing and drinking while standing inside licensed venues continue to take a toll on the industry.

The doors at Mount Gambier's Shadows Entertainment Complex have been locked since COVID-19 restrictions first came into effect in Australia in late March.

While other licensed venues and hospitality businesses have gradually reopened and returned to some normality, Shadows Nightclub operator Deano Gentile said reopening his venue remained unviable.

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"I sort of worked out that the cost of opening it as a bar would probably see us go backwards faster," Mr Gentile said.

"You have to have ample enough security, and later in the night when people have had a few drinks, how hard is it going to be to make them sit down and not dance?

"Financially, I just thought it would be better not to do it."

'We have been left behind'

Mr Gentile said he struggled to understand why the industry had not been given any clarity by key decision-makers.

"There must be some bigger reason, which I don't really understand, but there must be some bigger reason why they are holding us back," he said.

"The answers they have given me is that the nightclubs are the biggest 'no-no', but then they turn around and let people at weddings walk around drinking and dancing, which is not much different to what happens in a nightclub.

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"I actually thought when this all started, that we would be shut for a couple of months, but I didn't think it would be like six months and we still haven't heard anything yet really."

Despite his frustration, the recent changes allowing "vertical consumption" in outdoor areas and dancing at private functions had filled Mr Gentile with hope that further easing of restrictions were imminent.

"It's good to see other places open and to have their restrictions taken away slowly so they can operate properly, but they have sort of left us behind," he said.

"Hopefully it's not too far away because a lot of people are waiting to come back and we want to get back into business to start making a living again."

Deano's father, Vic Gentile, has more than 40 years experience in the nightclub industry and described COVID-19 as the most challenging period he had witnessed in his lifetime.

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"It has really put nightclubs behind and it's frustrating because I just can't see the difference between the hotels," Vic said.

"It is pretty hard, not just for the owners, but also the public because they are used to going out and enjoying themselves and when the pubs close, they like to finish it off by going to a nightclub."

Chairs on dancefloor not an option

Renmark's Rivaz Nightclub also remains closed and manager Jonathan Skewes said the lack of support for the industry was disappointing.

"We are obviously monitoring the news pretty closely, but we haven't heard anything, as far as we know it could be tomorrow or it could be in six months," Mr Skewes said.

"It is frustrating because other industries seem to have support available through the restrictions, but there has been nothing done to accommodate nightlife venues."

While some clubs in Adelaide recently reopened by accommodating patrons with chairs on the dancefloor, Mr Skewes said Rivaz Nightclub would not be adopting that strategy.

"There are two reasons and the first is that we don't want to put on a half-baked show and the second is that the venue where we run the nightclub is still doing meals and pokies, so it is not do or die for them," he said.

"We have been having positive conversations with the managers at the venue and we are confident the club will return when the time is right."

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