Dance floors across Australia have gone silent. As omicron cases continue to surge, punters are exercising caution, and nightclubs are one of the first casualties. Nightclubbing is a close-contact affair with people sharing drinks, hugs and generally coming in and out of each other’s personal space. Ironically, they provide a number of health benefits as they act as an inviting hangout for young adults to mingle.

As lockdowns abated in late 2021, punters rejoiced in a reopened night economy as they finally had a chance to cut shapes and enjoy a well-earned drink. Unfortunately, a lot has changed in a short amount of time, and people have reverted to self-isolation as the state governments enforce dance floor restrictions in response to the new variant. The hospitality and entertainment industry, like many others, are looking for the silver lining as a way to reform the purpose of nightclubs amidst the current situation. After all, their importance is felt amongst many as dancing and socialising are forms of therapy.

The big question is can Aussies enjoy nightclubbing while upholding social distancing? In Victoria, officials have closed indoor dance floors for an undisclosed period as the COVID situation continues to worsen. Other rules like masks, temperature and vaccination checks remain the same. Victorian nightclubs can be severely fined if they are found to open their dance floors which, given their popularity, is a tightrope that is getting harder to walk.

One might wonder about the effectiveness of this countermeasure and if nightclubs can thrive at all without an inviting place to dance? Without dance floors, nightclubs are likely to miss their biggest opportunity to build a reputation and income, thus leaving them vulnerable to closure. Moreover, they provide a forum in which young people can bolster their social skills and self-esteem by interacting with new faces in a trusted community spot. The cost of removing that from a sector of society can seem disproportionate given its negative impact on mental health.

Unlike food delivery, dance floors can’t be optimised at home. Between the build-up during the week, commuting in, and the company of friends, the excitement of nightclubbing begins well before your hand is stamped. Without a dance floor, the anticipation suffers, and the whole experience diminishes pretty quickly.

As we’ve seen, attitudes and laws change quickly. When the state government enforces a new social distancing law, it can seem like a long road back to normal. However, as booster rates increase and industries innovate, dance floors might return sooner rather than later. Even though indoor dance floors are shut in Victoria, nightclubs remain open and still offer a terrific ambience for a drink and catch-up amongst friends.