Dubai's Nightlife: the New Normal

So, since the COVID Comeback and my Hastings Castle Eye Test mission – I’ve been readjusting to these new and occasionally bizarre nightlife norms.

In Dubai – thankfully – mask-wearing is compulsory (enforced with a 3k AED / £640 / $816 fine for non-compliance). Temperature checks are also carried out anytime you enter a commercial building, hotel, or venue, taxis are limited to two passengers (or three people in a car in total), alongside limited seating and social distancing in restaurants and bars etc.

All establishments must adhere to local Covid guidelines and official spot checks are not uncommon. The guidelines loosely include procedures for disinfecting services/tables/toilets, with all staff (and guests) having to wear face masks at all times (except when eating / drinking / seated at their own table). On top of this table numbers are limited to a maximum of eight people per reservation.

This table capacity has fluctuated in reality recently causing all kinds of issues for venues and customers alike. In practice, it probably means most venues are at 30-35% capacity at best.

For me personally, the biggest disaster – although understandable – is the no dancing rule. I understand it’s not possible to have people dancing, and socially distancing but I do miss a good old boogie. Now, the only time you can shake your thing is in a really stylish strut-your-stuff as your walk to the toilet (masked up of course).

We’ve just relaunched our 8th and final venue in Dubai. Situated on the 43rd of Media One Hotel – and formerly known as Q43 – after a serious rebranding, it will now be known as Baby Q (and no, I didn’t have an input in the name). It’s a great milestone for us here, almost six months since our world came crashing to a halt, to finally open the doors and have all of our venues operational again – even at the reduced capacity.

Q joins both our live music haunts / mega bars Lock, Stock & Barrel (LSB JBR & LSB Barsha Heights), our two – internationally renowned steakhouses – the STK restaurants, the family-friendly Wavehouse in Atlantis Hotel on the Palm, and our two pan-Asian Buddha-Bar-esque restaurants Karma Kafe and Asia Asia.

The limited table numbers and the mandatory seating/table booking policy doesn’t add to the vibes at all. Certainly, where larger groups are concerned it doesn’t help when people are sat two-meters apart.

Entertainment-wise we have live music thrice per week, Mondays and Fridays at both Lock Stocks and at Baby Q on Wednesdays. Seeing as the whole live band setup isn’t allowed at present, these evenings comprise of four solo artists (three guitarists and one legend on keys) or a duet at Q and it’s all still very special indeed.

We also spice up our STK Brunches each and every Friday; we have DJs, live percussionists, vocalists and dancers – and these venues during these evenings do feel quite close to ‘normal’. All bar the dancing thing.

In general, the F&B scene here is treading a delicate path. In recent weeks and months, many venues have received fines and been closed down for not abiding by the rules and government checks are frequent. Added to this, there are fines on offer for people hosting and attending house parties too – with rumours that people have been getting stung with bills of up to 2k per household.

Thankfully we’re playing by the rules and doing our best to avoid any further complications. We’re just all hoping by the time we get to New Year’s Eve there may be – quite literally – more room for manoeuvre.

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