Dubai: Nightlife returns amid strict compliance with Covid-19 rules

Dubai - The UAE's aggressive vaccination campaign and a sustained dip in daily infections are to credit for the recovery.


Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Sun 22 Aug 2021, 11:20 AM

Last updated: Sun 22 Aug 2021, 11:40 AM

A vibrant nightlife is one of the key attractions of Dubai, which took a major hit since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Flight bans, travel restrictions and people confined indoors due to lockdown restrictions spelt doom for the pulsating nightlife and the hospitality industry in the emirate.

However, the pre-pandemic-level excitement is back with a bang.

The UAE's aggressive vaccination campaign and a sustained dip in daily Covid-19 infections can be credited with the nightlife's return amid full compliance with precautionary norms.

Owners of large entertainment venues, bars and clubs and hotel managers told Khaleej Times that nightlife venues have been experiencing a steady stream of partygoers since the beginning of July.

The revellers are confident because the undiluted fun has not compromised strict measures such as maintaining social distancing and sanitisation drives.

The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) authorities in Dubai have increased operational capacity to 100 per cent at hotels, restaurants and cafes and wedding and event halls with effect from August 12.

'Increase in operational capacity a blessing'

Indoor community events can host 2,500 guests, while outdoor programmes are allowed 5,000 people and vaccination is not mandatory for the attendees. Dancing is still out of bounds at these venues.

However, hotel owners said the boost in operational capacity would help revive their businesses.

Vladimir Gelev, the general manager at Weslodge Saloon and Hotel Cartagena Restaurant, Dubai at the JW Marriott Marquis, Business Bay, said, "Ours is a five-year-old establishment and Hotel Cartagena has been around for four and a half years. Our guests are mostly regulars. We're a fairly successful brand and most popular among Emiratis."

Gelev said the outlets reopened in October 2020 after the lockdown restrictions were lifted.

"We delayed our reopening as a lot of our staff could not return immediately from their native countries. Our operations were closed between March and October 2020. However, during New Year's Eve and Christmas, we're fully packed. There was a lull for a while since then and now we're back in business in a big way," he said.

Gelev cited that the rush from partygoers began shortly after Eid Al Adha. "Now, the weekends are fully packed. We recommend our patrons reserve their table at most venues," he added.

Alexis Brin, restaurant manager of French hospitality brand Bagatelle, said, "Operationally, nothing has changed for us since the new set of safety regulations were introduced. However, the new rule of maintaining a space of a minimum 1.5 metres between tables has allowed us to add one more table to our seating arrangement. It's a welcome move."

He said, "Ours is a party restaurant. However, there's still a ban on dancing. DJs play chartbusters, and our security staff is at hand to remind guests to remain seated and not to take to the dancing floor. Safety first is our motto."

He added, "Typically, the summer season is a quiet period for the restaurant, and the excitement is likely to gather momentum by the end of September."

A model for phased reopening

Mansour Memarian, the manager at Palazzo Versace, Dubai, said, "People are looking forward to celebrating and enjoying themselves right now. However, the hospitality industry needs to ensure that the events do not lead to a further spread of the viral infection. We know that the stricter and more cautious we are, the better it is for the hospitality industry to rebound in double quick time."

Dubai has emerged as a model as far as phased reopening is concerned.

"Compared to European countries or the United States, where everything was reopened at one go, the UAE has done a spectacular job in phasing out its reopening efforts. Also, the people respect the restrictions," said Memarian.

Gelev said, "The UAE's economy is bouncing back, and confidence is high among its residents. Dubai has proven to be capable of dealing with this situation because of its outgoing outlook. It's like a tiger that doesn't give up."

He said, "People have the desire to go out and mingle; however, they are respectful of the rules. People are learning and have adapted to the situation very well."

Mateo Valentina, a Spanish expatriate, said, "I've missed going out and having social gatherings with my friends in clubs. A lot of our meetings this past year were taking place either outdoors or virtual."

He added, "Now, going outdoors is not an option because of the weather condition. Neither to visit crowded venues. All of my friends have been vaccinated. We only visit those restaurants that follow maximum precautionary norms such as asking for the vaccination proof at the entrance."

Customers' expectations

Brin said, "In a bid to ensure the safety of our guests, our entire staff is vaccinated. We ask our guests to wear a mask when moving around the restaurant and also show us proof of vaccination."

He added, "Although our patrons are adhering to guidelines, they're missing dancing the most. It's a key Bagatelle experience, which hopefully will return soon."


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