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Let us dance: nightclubs, venues in COVID restrictions plea

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City nightclub and music venues are asking the State Government for guidance on when bans on dancing and other public health restrictions might be eased or lifted, saying the uncertainty threatens their ability to function and plan for future events.

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Harrison Raphael, co-owner of Hindley St venue Loverboy, said he’d written to the state government this week asking that restrictions be eased and dancing allowed without the need for a COVID Management Plan.

Dancing in venues was banned in March when COVID restrictions were first imposed, with SA Health-approved management plans introduced in July, but further coronavirus outbreaks saw processing of the the plans paused for five months.

Raphael said that without a detailed timeline of when restrictions would be eased, his venue could not plan for the future.

“There doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel,”  he said.

“I’m just after some kind of roadmap for us as an industry to see a way for us to get back – and a bit of transparency as well.”

Concerns were also mounting over how nightclubs and music venues operating under current restrictions would survive when the Federal Government’s JobKeeper payment was axed in two months.

“If they’re scrapping JobKeeper, because we’re at a reduced capacity and reduced with everything that we can do, it just doesn’t seem fair that you can hold onto restrictions while also scrapping the assistance,” Raphael said.

Under Loverboy’s current COVID Safe Plan, it can hold a maximum of 149 people.

While all South Australian venues need to have a COVID-19 Safe Plan, with a COVID marshal and QR codes, those wanting to allow dancing must also have a COVID-19 Management Plan which caps patrons at 200 and requires events be ticketed.

Raphael said despite lodging a COVID-19 Management Plan to allow dancing at Loverboy six weeks ago, the venue remained in the dark about when dancing would be permitted.

Raphael recently lodged plans with Adelaide City Council to hold a “60s inspired” music festival called Mystic Sky, saying the 1000-person-capacity event would be held in Rymill Park in July as a “warm up” for a larger event at the end of the year.

But he was anxious about investing in the event without a plan from the state government.

“We want to believe that they believe in us,” Raphael said.

“We want a bit of proof that we can go ahead and spend money and put these events on, without the rug being swept out from under us.

“We know that if anything happens with COVID that’s entirely out of our control and their control and if anything happens we’ll go back into hiding, like we have.”

The director of Lion Arts Factory, a live-music venue and nightclub, backed Raphael’s view that “future planning” was needed for the sector to continue to function.

Hugo Pedler said while the venue had been granted a COVID Management Plan about a month ago it was limited to the 200-person cap, hindering its capacity to hold vibrant live music events.

He said that pre-pandemic the venue held 600 people.

“There’s no future planning for businesses and we can’t sustain that,” he said

“If we weren’t getting some support we wouldn’t be unable to maintain the viability of our business at 200 capacity per show per night.

“To boost live music in South Australia, which has been so heavily affected, would be a roadmap out of this 200 capacity dancing, because we still need to have the dancing but we need to move forward.”

He said the venue’s casual staff who were dependent on JobKeeper payments also faced difficulties.

“It’s an uncertain future for our business because there’s no communication,” he said.

“If we look interstate to what other states are operating on, Victoria, Queensland, etc. they’ve been back dancing and at capacity for quite some time.

“There are some businesses that are surviving in this current state but each businesses is different … and I think there is a negative stigma around nightclubs and live music venues and getting them back on track.”

SA Police told InDaily that it was “not known” when restrictions would be eased.

“The easing of venue restrictions will be determined by the Transition Committee. It is not known when this will occur, however it will be determined by the current situation of COVID-19 and upon Health advice,” a spokesperson said.

“It is difficult to give definitive advice as to what is going to happen in the future, due to the unpredictable nature of the COVID virus.

“Any changes to the Directions will be determined by the Transition Committee upon advice from Health.”

Police Commissioner and State Co-Ordinator Grant Stevens said after a Transition Committee meeting yesterday that South Australia was “really close” to its threshold of easing restrictions, which would be maintained for the foreseeable future.

“I don’t know that we’re going to see too many more changes in relation to what we can free up, whilst at the same time managing COVID if it does come into South Australia,” he said.

“We’ll continue to revisit that and we’re looking at what a baseline of restrictions and activity might look like and formalising that so everyone has a clear understanding of what that is.”

Stevens said SA Police had seen a “dramatic reduction” in concerns and questions from community members and businesses about the impact of restrictions.

“We’ve acknowledged those concerns but it’s been a necessary step to protect the South Australian community from COVID-19,” he said.

SA Health told InDaily restrictions would be eased “based on a risk assessment analysis”.

“As always, our number one priority is protecting the health and wellbeing of our community and any changes to restrictions will only occur when we can put the safety of South Australians first.”

 

 

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