On March 3rd, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he is ready to ease restrictions on New York gatherings. All arts, event, and entertainment venues can begin reopening at 33% capacity starting April 2nd.
Image: Knockdown Center
Nightclubs and other smaller locations will be allowed to reopen at 33 percent capacity, limiting 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. Moreover, venues that require attendees to get prior testing and provide a negative coronavirus P.C.R. test can increase capacity to 150 indoors and 500 outdoors. Regardless of capacity, events will still require social distancing and masks.
Cuomo states, “New Yorkers have done a tremendous job working to defeat COVID, and we’re gradually loosening restrictions as the numbers reduce, and the public health improves. It’s clear that if we remain vigilant, we will reach the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Although this is big news, New York City clubs and venues don’t seem too convinced despite the easing of restrictions. As long as social distancing is in place, the capacity limit is not beneficial for them. For large spaces like the Knockdown Center in Queens, 100 people capacity means the opening is still not feasible. The center’s director Tyler Myers commented: “The numbers are too small. There is an absurdity to a venue with my square footage being, essentially, still shuttered by the state when I’m probably the safest place for an event to happen. I have a ridiculous amount of windows and doors, multiple outdoor patios, full HVAC, and ceilings that are so high that the indoor air volume is five or six times what it would be in a restaurant that holds 300 and can now have 100 people in it.”
Most locations explain that operating at reduced capacity “wouldn’t pay the bills” without mentioning that it ruins the atmosphere of these venues entirely. Nowadays co-founder Justin Carter told R.A.: “At this point, the lifting of restrictions doesn’t affect us much. With the social distancing requirements, there’s not much opportunity for us to have people dancing - at least in a way that would seem appealing to us at the moment. Maybe we could figure out a way of doing some kind of programming, but until there’s enough evidence out there showing that gathering closer together than six feet is relatively safe, we won’t be able to throw even limited capacity parties that are what I think people would expect and enjoy.”
Empty Knockdown / Image: Knockdown Center
For the moment, nightlife businesses are focusing on the rent relief they need to stay afloat. Club and bar owners are currently working together in search of alternatives ways to restart their businesses. With the help of Friends and Lovers, Grandstand Media, and concert promoter AdHoc Presents, arts nonprofit the Solo Foundation started an emergency relief fund called N.Y.C. Nightlife United back in May. Grants of up to $20,000 for small businesses and $5,000 for D.J.s, musicians, sound technicians, and other talents.
For our fellow New Yorkers longing to return to their favorite stomping grounds, there might still be a few months ahead.
“New York nightlife is not going to change, it’s not meant to change. It’s meant to be a secret society of people who really understand each other, and I foresee it becoming even more important to people’s sense of stability when we reopen.” Diana Mora, owner of the Crown Heights club Friends and Lovers.