Has coronavirus stopped San Diego nightlife?
Social distancing in short supply at some local clubs
**On Sunday, March 15, in an effort to slow the virus’ spread, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for the closure of all California nightclubs, as well as bars, wineries and brewpubs.**
Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” blared from the DJ speakers. “It’s Fridaaaay night!” the crowd belted in unison from the dance floor.
And at Side Bar Nightclub in the Gaslamp Quarter, it did seem like an average Friday night despite the growing concern over coronavirus in San Diego.
Rather than social distancing, patrons at the nightclub danced close, held hands and occasionally made out in the dark room, while bright lights flashed and music boomed from the DJ stand.
Local nightlife seemed to be business as usual.
In Side Bar’s neighboring room, Billy Jonathan, 31, of downtown San Diego and Mark Anthony, 37, of La Jolla took in the scene with drinks in hand before heading out to the patio for a quick smoke.
The friends both work downtown and make the rounds at the clubs nearly every night. But they suspected their nightly routine may change soon.
“I predict this weekend will be the last hurrah — everything’s gonna close down for a while,” Anthony said.
“Hoping (the hysteria) is done in two weeks. I think it will die down. Every year has something crazy,” Jonathon said.
Though not too concerned about COVID-19, Anthony and Jonathon said that they are taking precautions, including hand washing, not touching their faces and stocking up on groceries.
“But you still gotta live — bills aren’t gonna pay themselves,” Anthony said, passing his cigarette to Jonathan. Anthony, who works in the events industry, added that business has slowed down in light of the news.
Later at Side Bar, Abigail Humphreys, 24, greeted people with an elbow positioned on her hip like a fin.
“We don’t shake hands anymore; we do the little Nemo. That’s what I’ve been calling it,” Humphreys laughed.
Humphreys, who attends the University of San Diego and lives in Imperial Beach, was out with her friend Sebastian Suarez, a student at the University of Houston who decided to visit when the campus abruptly shut down last week.
Both Humphreys and Suarez were frustrated by what they said was an absence of communication about coronavirus, especially from their respective universities.
“I’m not really that afraid of getting the virus, and from what I’ve heard, it’s not that bad, but again I don’t know,” said Humphreys. “No one’s telling us anything. I don’t know — it could be so much worse than what they’re telling us. I’m just frustrated with the lack of information,” Humphreys said, adding that she now gets her news directly from the Center of Disease Control website.
“People our age are already anxious, depressed, unhappy and broke,” she added. “I know I should be more afraid, ‘cause we’re here (at Side Bar), but I guess we’re not afraid enough.”
A few blocks away at FLUXX Nightclub, it was similarly full of people dancing closely together on the dance floor as loud music blared.
Without an outdoor patio or connecting room away from the speakers, guests had to lean in close to talk. A bride-to-be celebrating her bachelorette party attempted to jump up onto a railing surrounding the dance floor, and seemed unfazed by both her fall and any germs on the railing.
In an email to The San Diego Union-Tribune, FLUXX said it does not have plans to close but is “monitoring the situation and is taking extra measures to ensure the health and safety of all guests,” including capping attendance at 249 people, as well as adding hand-sanitizer stations and additional cleaning staff. (However, on this night, no hand-sanitizer stations were prominently displayed.)
In addition to FLUXX and Side Bar, Bassmnt, Bang Bang and Parq are also still open. The Union-Tribune reached out to the nightclubs via email and phone. Bang Bang declined to comment, and Bassmnt and Parq did not return messages.
Spin’s manager, Branno Kent, said they were not forced to close down the nightclub, but felt it was the ethical thing to do.
“Aside from having larger events (this weekend) — even if we had smaller ones planned — we would still choose to close our doors to, essentially, make a statement that we care, and economics aside, safety is first,” he said.
While Kent said he knows closing the nightclub was the responsible decision, he acknowledged that it’s a frightening time for people in his industry.
“I’m not gonna lie, it’s very daunting. Very daunting,” he said. “Yet at the end of the day, we’ll all move forward despite what we’re getting thrown.”