Let nightlife venues reopen for sake of suffering workers, plead operators

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PETALING JAYA: Operators of bars and nightclubs are complaining that they, and especially their workers, have been unfairly left out of government efforts to help people face the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Since the MCO was first imposed in March, clubs and music venues have yet to receive the government’s green light to restart operations, leaving thousands without jobs.

Amrittal Singh, general manager of live music venue Le Noir and a 20-year veteran of the bar business, told FMT the industry was made up of mainly B40 workers such as hostesses, bartenders and servers.

“All their lives they’ve been working in this industry,” he said. “And now they are forced to do other things like drive for Grab or become dispatch riders to get by.

“Even some members of our live bands, most of whom are in the B40 group, now have to sell food by the roadside although they have been musicians their whole lives.”

Benny Bedi, protem committee chairman of the Klang Valley Pub, Night Club and Bar Association, said he had sent a set of proposed SOPs to the government but had yet to get a response. The proposals include suggestions for customer capacity to be cut in half and the rearrangement of seating to promote social distancing.

“We won’t be making money at half capacity,” he said, “but at least it will let us survive, and we’d rather have that than nothing.”


He said at least 20,000 nightlife workers in the Klang Valley had lost their jobs. This would have a knock-on effect on workers in industries such as tourism, with visitors potentially looking elsewhere if local nightlife were to fade, he added.

Amrittal agreed and said his venue would be happy to abide by any SOP the government would hand down as it had become a matter of survival for him and the people he had once employed.

However, Godwin Pereira, who owns the Kyo nightclub at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, said he could not imagine reopening his venue under the current circumstances, even with SOPs.

“When you walk into a room, you want the energy to erupt and explode,” he said. “And that only comes from a compressed room. You don’t get that when a place is empty.

“A pandemic affects high density areas. I don’t think I could put my staff or my venue at risk.”

He told FMT he believed many bars and clubs would end up having to close, but said he was confident there would be plenty of jobs available when nightlife resumed.

“People are always looking for work,” he said. “So I do believe that when things get better, people will jump at any opportunity to make money. It’s a survival instinct.” – FMT

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