In the moments leading up to 19 July, people waiting in the nightclub queue counted down from 10. Then, as the clock struck midnight they cheered for the moment they’d been waiting for. The wait has been more than 480 days.
Egg nightclub in Kings Cross, north London, was one of the first nightclubs to announce it was closing its doors last year, and overnight it was one of the first to reopen.
Hundreds of people turned up for the opening night, and the queue snaked around the corner.
One clubber called Chloe told Sky News it had “been such a long time and I can’t wait to get out on the dancefloor”. Another said he felt like he had been “robbed” of more than a year’s worth of partying.
But there was also a feeling of apprehension, with several people feeling like clubs would inevitably close again.
“We want to be looking forward to it now that we’re out and want to have a good time – but it doesn’t feel like that at the moment,” said clubber Annie, adding that she was worried about getting COVID.
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Among those waiting in the queue were several 19-year-olds – waiting for their very first experience of a nightclub.
One of them, Henry, said: “It feels like we haven’t lived the last year-and-a-half. All the people who are older than us have told us about going clubbing and dancing and we haven’t had that – so we’re about to have it. We will finally feel our age.”
It has not been an easy road for much of the night-time economy, with many clubs closing their doors for good.
Now, venues are struggling with what is being called the “pingdemic”, as large numbers of people are being pinged by the NHS COVID-19 app.
Charlie Gilkes, the co-founder of Inception Group, which owns eleven night-time venues, said three have had to temporarily close recently because so many staff have been forced to isolate.
He said it was “almost lockdown by the backdoor”, adding that “we wait in perpetual anxiety”.
The government is now advising nightclubs to ask for proof of double vaccination, or a negative test – but it’s not mandatory and there are questions about the practicalities.
Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, said vaccine passports at venues are “actually quite difficult to deliver”, adding: “You only need one person in the queue of 300 that doesn’t have the correct vaccine passport, and you have a block on that door.”