Sask. nightlife industry finally able to open dance floors, but will crowds return?

Click to play video: 'Sask. nightlife industry finally able to offer full experience, but uncertainty remains' Sask. nightlife industry finally able to offer full experience, but uncertainty remains
WATCH: One Regina bar owner expects it to take at least four years to recover the losses he's suffered during the pandemic, a rebound that banks on people once again embracing nightlife – Jul 11, 2021

Each stage of Saskatchewan’s reopening plan has been met with optimism, but it hasn’t been until now that people have been able to do those happy dances on actual dance floors.

And, while the removal of the remaining pandemic restrictions has those in the local nightlife industry eager to get back in the groove, some stakeholders feel they can’t truly let loose until everybody feels safe enough to gather in public again.

“We’re really hoping people come back and life can return to the new normal, whatever that may be,” said Cloud 9 Live Bar and Grill Owner Les Fraser.

“That’s the main factor. Everybody wants to feel safe and comfortable.”

Read more: Saskatchewan lifts all remaining COVID-19 public health restrictions

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While his dance floor was locked down, Les Fraser launched a new Caribbean food menu in hopes of enticing new patrons to visit his bar. Connor O'Donovan / Global News

Fraser said the bread and butter of his business, live music and a popular monthly EDM show, have been all but impossible to operate with dance floors locked down since the early days of the pandemic.

While he’s taken steps to adapt, including by launching a new and unique menu and by holding physically distanced jam sessions, revenue is still down by around 80 per cent per month.

“It’s been a struggle, no question,” Fraser said.

“It’s gonna take at least four years to recoup the losses.”

Read more: Live music community optimistic about recovery as Saskatchewan reopens

Fraser hopes the removal of the liquor serving curfew will also help boost business back towards pre-pandemic levels. Connor O'Donovan / Global News

Many Regina nightlife venues, including Cloud 9 and Revival Music Room, celebrated the removal of the remaining restrictions by hosting events starting at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

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Revival Music Room Operating Owner Jason Gervais says that while the re-launch wasn’t met with a big crowd, it was nice to see people back in the bar enjoying live music.

“It was regulars, off-duty staff and musicians. It was well-received. People were happy. We did a little countdown to midnight and opened up the dance floor for the first time in 18 months,” Gervais said.

“We do need people to start coming back. We miss you. Come on back!”

He added, though, that even though his stage can operate normally he foresees it being difficult to bring bands back regularly as well.

Click to play video: 'Celebrating and mourning with loved ones post COVID-19 restrictions in Saskatchewan' Celebrating and mourning with loved ones post COVID-19 restrictions in Saskatchewan
Celebrating and mourning with loved ones post COVID-19 restrictions in Saskatchewan – Jul 11, 2021

“I can’t blame a lot of them for not wanting to play. Some of them have lost members. Some disbanded and some just want to wait until the pandemic’s over before they get back at it.”

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Assuming that many will still be hesitant to go out to bars and nightclubs for some time still, both Gervais and Fraser are launching new — and perhaps forgotten to many — experiences like karaoke in hopes of encouraging people to pick up where they left off a year-and-a-half ago.

“Instead of throwing all of our eggs into one basket with the live bands, we decided to diversify and introduce more people to the room,” said Fraser.

Fraser added that while he remains optimistic, if the province orders up another round of restrictions, he thinks it could very well mean last call for his establishment.

“If we had another lockdown for say, six months, now you’re adding a few more years again to try to recover your financial losses — I don’t know if it would be worth it.”

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