How countries plan to restart nightclubs and music festivals

Governments and health organizations, faced with pressure to reopen the worldwide economy, are beginning to lay out guidelines for the return of venues, nightclubs and music festivals.

With over four million cases worldwide, the reopening of the nightlife economy will be gradual. While scenes in China have seen nightlife cautiously return, South Korea’s initial club reopenings are linked to a recent spike of COVID-19 infections in the country, resulting in another nightlife shutdown. Given that, it feels unlikely live music, festivals and club nights will completely return in absence of a vaccine. Still, various governments, like Spain and Ireland, have outlined multi-stage plans to reopen clubs, music festivals and venues along with the rest of economy.

Here’s the latest on nightlife reopenings.

Last updated: 16:20 BST, Monday, May 11th

United Kingdom

The UK Home Office shared the 60-page document Our Plain To Rebuild today, May 11th. It includes a three-step plan for phasing-out the UK lockdown, with the first in action from today, the second tentatively starting no earlier than June 1st, and the third potentially beginning on or after July 4th. It addresses the hospitality sector, directly referencing pubs and implying restaurants under the category of “food-service providers,” which is planned to partially reopen in that third stage, however, it states, “Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part.”

The plan only mentions nightclubs once, when listing examples of indoor spaces that may take longer to reopen when compared to similar-purpose venues that are outdoors: “While reopening outdoor spaces and activities (subject to continued social distancing) comes earlier in the roadmap because the risk of transmission outdoors is significantly lower, it is likely that reopening indoor public spaces and leisure facilities (such as gyms and cinemas), premises whose core purpose is social interaction (such as nightclubs), venues that attract large crowds (like sports stadia), and personal care establishments where close contact is inherent (like beauty salons) may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections.”

A Scottish-government funded study by the University Of Sterling will look into policy options for reopening bars, nightclubs and restaurants in a way that protects customers and minimizes impact on ambulance services.

South Korea

After South Korea recently relaxed social-distancing measures, including allowing clubs to reopen the weekend of April 24th, there’s been a spike in COVID-19 infections, forcing another closure of clubs.


With under 10,000 reported cases, Australia is considering reopening its economy. Restrictions around gatherings have been lifted in some states, and Falls Festival has announced its New Year’s Eve edition will happen with an all-Australian lineup, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports. Still, the country’s Chief Medical Officer stated social-distancing guidelines will likely remain in place until a vaccine, and Big Day Out cofounder Ken West said any 2020 events would face a battle to get clearance.


Borders in Denmark remain closed to foreigners, but museums theaters and zoos will begin opening June 8th. Bars, nightclubs and small concert venues will need to wait until sometime in “early” August for reopening, The Local DK reports.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands Minister Of Public Health sent a letter to the House Of Representatives saying “mass events with a rural appearance” may only be allowed with the existence of a vaccine, AT5 reports. Concert halls and theaters, however, will be allowed to take groups of 30, with previous reservations and social distancing, starting June 1st. Groups of 100 will be allowed to gather starting July 1st.

United States

The US began an uneven reopening effort, with certain localities, such as Austin, Texas, and Springfield, Kentucky, pushing to open bars and nightclubs imminently. With the world’s largest concentration of infections and deaths, reopening efforts in cities like New York and Los Angeles will be carried out in phases, with nightclubs and bars likely being among the last businesses to open.


The Portuguese government has banned music festivals until September 30th, and it’s also getting involved in refunds for ticket holders, according to ECO. “If shows, scheduled between February 28th and September 30th, are not performed due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the government announced, “the consumers will be provided with ‘a voucher of equal value to the ticket price paid.'”


The Irish government’s 23-page document Roadmap For Reopening Society & Business outlines five phases with tentative timeframes, with the final stage (estimated date August 10th) allowing for “festivals, events and other social mass gatherings… where social distancing can be complied with.”


Germany has allowed for all shops to reopen with social-distancing measures, which has been good news for the country’s record stores. The state of Bavaria plans to reopen restaurants on May 18th, according to the BBC, but there’s no country-wide plan yet for bars and restaurants. Germany currently holds a nationwide ban on clubs, theaters and cultural sites until July 31st. Events with 5,000 people or more are banned until October 24th.


Spain’s lockdown-easing plan allows some “cultural events” to take place starting this month. On May 11th, outdoor terraces of restaurants and bars will be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity and no more than 30 people will be permitted to attend indoor events, 200 for socially distanced, seated open-air events. For the final phase, planned for June 10th, the capacity for indoor events rises to 80 people, while outdoor functions can host up to 800 people in seats. For more details and local promoter reaction, read our report here.


Italy, which had one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, has begun lifting its lockdown in stages. Restaurants and bars can currently offer takeaway services, and by June 1st, they’ll be allowed to reopen, the Guardian reports. There’s not official call on reopening nightclubs or adjusting bans on larger events.


Businesses in China, such as clubs and bars, have been permitted to open their doors. Nyshka Chandran spoke to venue owners and staff, promoters and DJs in Chengdu, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing to see how local scenes are recovering after the coronavirus lockdown—read the in-depth report.

We’ll continue updating this post as countries announce and update lockdown-lifting plans.

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Photo credit: Bar Open