Towards the reopening of nightlife
BarcelonaLast Friday's illegal party that brought together 9,000 young people at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) has set off all the alarm bells, but it is just one of the many meetings that young people from all over the country organise every weekend and which have become a public order problem, as well as a possible source of contagion. The Catalan Minister of Home Affairs, Joan Ignasi Elena, has said he suspects that these open-air parties are not spontaneous but are organised by people who want to make money from the fact that bars and clubs are still closed, which is very likely.
The fact is that parties like the one at the UAB – where, by the way, an alleged sexual assault is being investigated – usually end up with mountains of rubbish and waste and thousands of euros worth of damage. There have also been videos showing youngsters confronting the police. All this justifies the step taken by the Government to establish a calendar for the reopening of nightlife in order to provide an alternative to these uncontrolled mass gatherings for young people wishing to party and socialise. From Thursday 23rd, these venues will be able to open their outdoor spaces until 3am, and soon a date will be set, which will be before the 15th of October, for indoor venues to open too. The covid pass will be required, meaning this could also become an incentive for younger age groups to get fully vaccinated.
The Health Department's fears before the reopening of bars and clubs are understandable, but it is becoming clear –and la Mercè will only reinforce the point– that without a curfew there is no way to prevent these gatherings of young people, whether on the beaches, in mountain areas (with the consequent danger this entails) or in streets and squares, as happened during Gràcia festival. For this reason, with accumulated incidence standing below 100 and with most autonomous communities already opening clubs and bars, it did not make much sense to continue with this restriction.
The other temptation that we cannot fall into is the criminalisation of young people, especially because only they know the consequences that these almost two years of pandemic have had on their lives, during which they have not been able to socialise, go to school or go out partying normally. Health authorities have also detected that lockdowns and restrictions are having an emotional impact on young people, and it is logical that they are looking for different ways to have fun. They need it, just as those who are now a little older needed it when they were their age.
Maybe it's time to value that nightlife is not only an economic sector that has been especially punished by the pandemic, but that it also fulfils a social function: it is a space for interaction, knowledge and, also, escape. That is why it is good to walk towards a safe reopening that helps to recover lost normality, also on weekend nights.