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Not enough party-goers to keep bars open in Latvia

There are not enough customers in bars and nightclubs to keep the industry going, the Latvian Bar Association told Latvian Radio July 15.

Currently, a relatively small number of customers needs to be distributed among the nightlife hubs. Consequently, there are companies that are not able to earn at this time. There is also an acute shortage of employees in the industry, so bar owners are concerned about the future.

Since the beginning of May, Latvian bars and nightclubs have started to recover a little. Only outdoor terraces with time limits could be opened initially, but entertainment has also been allowed indoors since mid-June. It is true that only people vaccinated against Covid-19 can attend, and all employees must also be vaccinated.

Some of the bars and clubs work like this. There is a large number of bars that did not overcome the pandemic.

“I think the most famous places could be Omes briljants, Vest, Autentika, Coco Loco, HHC – these are bars that failed for one or other reason during the pandemic. Downtime or grant benefits were refused, or there was something with the VID, maybe tax debts,” said Oskars Ikstens, board member of the Latvian Bar Association.

Some nightlife spots are still waiting. For example, the famous club Coyote Fly in Rīga, which, working with current constraints, cannot cover its costs.

Those who have opened the door to the vaccinated people have their own challenges: a relatively small number of customers must be divided among themselves. Ikstens is the owner of the Pūce club and says about a fifth of the customers can continue to party after midnight.

Last Friday, the door to visitors was also opened by famous folk club Ala. “It's very difficult to judge right now, because we just started working on Friday. Now it's four, five days that we have worked. But in any case, there is nothing to do in the day, there are no lunch-goers, especially in Old Rīga, because Old Rīga is quite quiet and peaceful. And while the offices, the public authorities work remotely, we don't have people for lunch. But we're working for evenings right now. The emotional feelings are fantastic, but from a business point of view, it is difficult to judge. There's not enough volume,” the owner of Ala, Krišjānis Putniņš, said.

In Ala, too, all customers on the terrace and those on Covid-19 in the indoor area can relax. With the coordination of the flow of people and the verification of vaccination certificates, everything was fine, there was no misunderstanding. The only trouble was checking foreign customer certificates because they were initially declared invalid in the test, but now the problem was resolved.

This is a tough time for the industry – it is difficult for many establishments to earn because of a lack of customers, and it is not known what will happen in autumn and winter.

So the Latvian Bar Association has concerns about potential closure of more bars. The association calls for people to be actively vaccinated against Covid-19. “That is why the association created a video to invite people, especially young people, to get vaccinated. This is very important for both public health and our industry as a whole,” Ikstens said.

The association is trying to reach out to people with a video in which bartenders, musicians and DJs appeal to the public to vaccinate. At the moment, around a third of the Latvian society has used this opportunity, but at least 70% are needed to return closer to normal life.

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