LOCKDOWN ROADMAP

The return of nightclubs: Why nothing compares to a night out

A self-confessed boring homebody, Sophie Gallagher never thought she would miss a night out, but after more than a year it’s all she can think about

Tuesday 23 February 2021 11:56
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If we travel back to the days BC (before coronavirus), the prospect of me choosing a night out over a night in was laughable. After a long week of work and midweek dinners with friends, the last thing I would choose to do was hit the streets of London over an unbroken nine-hour sleep. I was, for want of a better phrase, a boring square.

When lockdown arrived on 23 March 2020, despite the obvious difficulties (working remotely, precarious finances and fear of deadly illness), I felt a mandate to “stay at home” indulged my natural tendency to be an introverted homebody; to go to bed at 10pm; to wear a lot of athleisure (yes reader, elasticated trousers); and to have time for a 10-step skincare routine.

Now as we approach the one year anniversary, I’d swap all the toners and acids in the world for a fleeting opportunity to be on a crowded dancefloor, surrounded by other people.

The dancefloor could be anywhere; a sticky nightclub in east London with low ceilings and toilets you avoid. A warehouse in Manchester where you don’t arrive until after midnight and stay until the sun comes up. A marquee wedding in the home counties where you conga, Macarena and drag yourself through “Come On Eileen” because you definitely know the words.

I dream about the perfect night; arriving a bit later than planned (because everyone knows pre-drinks are the best part), already having had one too many glasses of wine. The moment you hear your song and drag everyone to the floor. Moving limbs and bare skin all covered in spilt drink. The euphoria of singing the same words as hundreds of other people around you. I wouldn’t even mind drunk people bumping into me; the sweaty bodies of strangers in such close proximity; having to shout over the music to make myself heard.

Given we now have to keep our distance from anyone not in our own household, the image of a packed dancefloor is about as far away from our reality as you can get. Perhaps that is why it has become so appealing? Or perhaps it’s because the safety and monotony of long periods spent at home is in direct contrast to that feeling you get before a night out: the butterflies in the pit of your stomach, not knowing where a spontaneous evening might lead.

No ‘getting-essential-food-and-medicine-supplies’ justification for going out. Just leaving home to feel freedom and experience fun

I actually now relish the idea of being cold in a smoking area because your friend has decided to talk to someone else. That jostle at the bar to get a drink. The camaraderie of a drunk night bus home (don’t remind me about the terrible ones). I want to just leave the house and go somewhere for the sheer joy of it. No getting-essential-food-and-medicine-supplies justification for going out (although maybe it could qualify as daily exercise). Just leaving home to feel freedom and experience fun. The thought of being in a room surrounded by friends all doing the same can’t help but make me smile.

With all its talk of lockdown-easing measures the government has already made it clear that places where the primary objective is socialisation will be the last to open. Sure, I get it, letting people have fun is fairly low down on the list of priorities when you consider the nation’s healthcare, children’s education and making sure the economy doesn’t tank. But come on Rishi Sunak, surely a rendition of “Bootylicious” is what we all need right now?

I dread to think of the places that will already have suffered so much they won’t reopen – those where this won’t be a blip in the balance sheet to be navigated, but the end of an era. The Hospitality Union has predicted at least 50 per cent of pubs may have shut their doors forever. The hospitality and nightlife industry is worth an estimated £100bn to the UK economy and employs around 9 per cent of the British workforce (2.9 million people) – the impact doesn’t bear thinking about and I wince with guilt every time I think about having left somewhere before the lights came on pre-lockdown.

In short, the last few months have been about survival. In the most basic of senses this meant surviving a pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 people in our country. But beyond that, surviving financially when millions have been furloughed, and surviving mentally when so many face loneliness and anxiety.

To be back in a nightclub dancing, surrounded by other humans all just wanting to have a good time, would be to remember what it is to be alive.

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