Nightclub ready for 'Freedom at Midnight'

After months of a stranglehold on their business, nightclubs will finally re-open without restrictions on Monday – and Shropshire's biggest club is wasting no time in getting people back on the dance floor.

Buttermarket owner Martin Monahan is looking forward to Sunday night's 'Freedom at Midnight' event
Buttermarket owner Martin Monahan is looking forward to Sunday night's 'Freedom at Midnight' event

While restrictions have been gradually lifted for most areas of business and society, nightclubs and concert venues have always been the last to see the full green light from government.

On Monday, they will be allowed to welcome customers without bubbles, marking a return to what most of us remember as a 'normal' nightclub.

The Buttermarket in Shrewsbury will be open on Sunday night, with dance music legend Rozalla performing her hit song Everybody's Free on the stroke of midnight as revellers return to the dance floor.

Inside The Buttermarket

The venue's owner, Martin Monahan, said they were thrilled at finally being able to open, but also lifted the lid on the strains of the past 16 months.

He said he was also concerned that the decision to abandon requirements for people to wear face masks in shops and on public transport could have a negative impact on hospitality businesses looking to get back on their feet.

"It has been a mind blowing 16 months," he said.

"You have so many different scenarios in your head of what the different outcomes and problems are and it is out of your control.

"In business you are used to working a solution up for a problem, but here we have not had control over the end result, such as dates for opening. You are constantly thinking of different scenarios. I don't think I have felt as much stress in my whole career."

Buttermarket owner Martin Monahan

Mr Monahan said it would be great to see people enjoying themselves again in something approaching a 'normal' club environment.

He said: "With the measures we have taken to make it as Covid secure as we can, to see people on the stroke of midnight going back on the dance floor with the exclusive of Rozalla playing Everybody's Free, it is something that will stay with people forever."

Mr Monahan said staff at the venue would still wear masks from Monday, unless exempt, and that they will encourage customers to wear masks but will not require them.

He said they will also be encouraging clubbers to do a lateral flow test before going to the venue – but again will not be asking for proof of a negative test. He also said there had also been consideration over ensuring people who are not as comfortable with moving away from social distancing are still comfortable in the environment – something he said would be possible due to the space available in the venue.

Mr Monahan said: "We are going to be doing lateral flow tests with every member of staff before they start work.

"We encourage customers to take lateral flow tests before they arrive but given that it is not the law it is not something we will insist on.

"I do not know any venue that is insisting on lateral flow tests or Covid passports, or they would have no customers."

He added: "We want to be, as Boris Johnson put it, socially responsible, and I believe we are. The Buttermarket being the largest venue in Shropshire and in super-club mode we have got lots of space and and that is a big advantage for us because those feeling a little bit nervous, it is about doing their own risk assessment and there are plenty of places where if they do not want to be in a crowded space they can sit in a booth, there are lots of options on three floors of the venue, and that is important to us."

Mr Monahan said he was concerned at the government decision over face masks on public transport and in shops.

He said retaining the requirement in law would have no impact on the economy, but by not mandating them there is the possibility that cases grow and hospitality again pays the price.

The club owner also called for changes to the operation of the track and trace system to stop business grinding to a halt with people isolating.

He said: "It seems obvious to me that the government will have to address the pinging situation. If half a million people have been pinged in the last seven days that is only going to increase.

"The way forward as I see it is if someone gets pinged they immediately do a lateral flow test and if it is negative they carry on and maybe keep doing the tests. For the whole of England I think it is the only logical way forward."

He added: "It seems there are different things for difference sectors, and if you make the decision to open hospitality then make a decision on other measures that won't affect the economy such as face masks in shops and on public transport.

"People are not going to stop going to the shop because they have to wear a face mask. They are used to it now."

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