The nights are just not the same

Fresh start: The nightlife scene is showing improvement, say club owners, but the recovery is slow. These clubs in Changkat Bukit Bintang near Jalan Alor are hoping for brighter days ahead. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Things are looking brighter for nightlife businesses since the sector was allowed to resume operations on May 15, but the nights are coming to an end much earlier than before, say stakeholders.

Crowds are also spending less compared to pre-lockdown days and the queues outside nightclubs were also not what they used to be despite the venues being filled.

Restaurant and Bistro Owners Association vice-president Jeremy Lim said the situation was improving for the industry, but it was not across the board.

“The headcount always varies; it can be comparable to pre-lockdown levels on weekends, but other nights can be less favourable,” he said.

He said a number of people were still hesitant about heading to nightspots following the long hiatus.

Lim, who owns a club in Kuala Lumpur, said the composition of patrons had changed as well, adding that many of the patrons were now from the early 20s age group.

“These are groups who celebrated their 21st, 22nd or even 23rd birthdays at home during the lockdown and are now choosing to re-celebrate them at nightlife spots and, in tandem, get their first taste of the nightlife.”

Prior to the lockdown, he said patrons were mostly those in their early to mid-30s.

“My observations at our club are that at least 40% to 50% of the crowds still comprise those in their 30s,” he added.

He said that many customers were also spending less now despite the venues always being full.

“The age dynamic could be a factor, given that those from their 20s have less spending power and are choosing the cheaper food and drinks.”

Lim said workers who were forced to go on unpaid leave throughout the lockdowns had returned, but a “sizeable number” had left the industry for good.

“Overall, the industry has its head above water for now, and hopefully things will continue improving,” he said.

Industries Unite co-founder Datuk David Gurupatham said the entire nightlife scene seemed to be undergoing a fresh start.

“The entire dynamics of the scene have changed, with everyone needing to start from scratch in order to attract customers,” he said.

“This has seen venues also putting more effort into their marketing plans due to the evolving landscape.”

Although the response by patrons is improving, Gurupatham said it was no longer common to see long queues outside venues.

He attributed this to the possibility that people now had many other venues to choose from for a good night out.

“Previously, clubs and pubs were the mainstream choices but the presence of speakeasies and venues offering a hybrid setting (which includes live deejays spinning in restaurant-like settings) are also appealing to select markets,” he said.

Gurupatham said another effect of the pandemic was that patrons were leaving nightlife venues much earlier than before.

“This has resulted in outlets beginning their promotions from as early as 4pm.

“Regulars are also no longer a common sight, with new faces coming and going on a weekly basis,” he added.

As for the manpower shortage, he said most businesses were striving to play with the cards they had been dealt with.

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