Curfew and screens are no use
Students won't stop partying
It’s Thursday around midnight, and it’s busy in the Poelestraat. A small group of students are hanging around, all dressed the same in blue button-up shirts, light jeans with the cuffs rolled up, and sneakers. One of the guys starts singing: ‘I wanna dance with somebody, I wanna feel the heat with somebody.’
Alas, he won’t get his chance tonight.
Going out during the corona crisis isn’t what it used to be. Discos and night clubs are still closed. That means no dancing the night away in a full pub and going home as the sun comes up. No more house parties with loud music and plenty of alcohol.
Or does it?
‘Thinking people will obey the rules is just naive. No one I know does it’, says Ibrahim A’mema. The business administration student still goes to parties. ‘Last week I was in a club in town. There isn’t a lot of police around after one thirty, and that’s when people start coming to the club. It was too full to keep our distance from each other.’
No one I know obeys the rules
Pubs are trying to keep everything under control, but they don’t always succeed. As soon as guests get some alcohol in them, they forget all about the social distancing rules. ‘The club only had a bartender on duty. It’s really difficult for one person to enforce the rules’, says Ibrahim.
Last weekend, Club Kiwi was so full that the city of Groningen decided to close the place down for a week. Wolter Wolthers even decided to close down for the foreseeable future. Owner Matthijs Kanis wrote on Facebook: ‘It’s no fun like this.’
Groningen, ‘the city without a closing time’, now even has a weekend curfew. No one is allowed to enter a pub after one thirty in the morning on Fridays or Saturdays. Anyone who’s already inside is allowed to stay, though.
The corona measures have also visibly impacted how outdoor seating is arranged. Some areas have been roped off, and plastic screens have been placed between tables. Since the sheets are see-through, you can still flirt with people a few tables away if you want to. But it’s not exactly relaxed.
We can’t tell people what to do in their own home
You can’t just spontaneously stop by for drinks at your student club anymore, either. Many associations, including Vindicat, Dizkartes, Cleopatra, and Bernlef, only take reservations now. ‘Members can call the club and reserve a seat for an hour at a time’, says Christian Beens, Cleopatra board member.
It takes some getting used to, but this allows student associations to be responsible and still welcome their members. ‘The health of our members is our priority’, says Maureen van Blerk with Dizkartes.
Maud Kruythoff, upcoming Vindicat board member, confirms. ‘We take every action pubs and restaurants take. We’re probably stricter than all the big pubs in town.’
Vindicat has told its members to skip the dance nights for now. ‘We discourage it’, says Maud. ‘But’, she says, ‘we can’t tell people what to do in their own homes.’
It’s difficult enough to keep all the rules in mind at student associations, says Sharon Hesselink, Bernlef board member. ‘Usually everyone is pretty good at social distancing, but it becomes more difficult when people are drinking alcohol. People are just so fed up with the rules.’
One student who wants to remain anonymous says he goes out every week. Then again, he also gets tested for corona every week, he says. ‘It’s the polite thing to do.’
Even if the city succeeds in making going out less attractive, Ibrahim says, students can always just throw parties at home. ‘The rule that you can’t invite more than six people and that you have to sit six feet apart is really just advice, and no one really listens to it. It’s a game of cat and mouse.’
In April, in the middle of the lockdown, Ibrahim threw a party for friends. But back then the police were enforcing the rules and it didn’t end well for him. ‘The cops suddenly showed up and I got a 400 euro fine’, he says.
If you do want to dance the night away and forget all about the corona crisis and still be responsible? The only solution is to have a party with just your roommates. They’re the only exception to the social distancing rule.
This is what Lotte Paping and her roommates do in their all-girls house just outside the city centre. They wanted to have a party but only if it was corona proof. They came up with the concept of a ‘home party’: just for roommates.
You can just fall into bed and you’re your own DJ
It was a great success, says Lotte, who studies dentistry. They’ve had four parties so far, and the students can heartily recommend it. What’s so great about a home party? ‘When it’s over you can just fall into bed and you’re your own DJ.’ On top of that, you obey all the pandemic rules.
‘We started with drinks in the kitchen and then moved on to the “pub”’, says Lotte. The pub in this case was a room belonging to a roommate who wasn’t home. During the day it was used as a study room, and at night, the girls turned it into a party location. They even got a special multi-coloured light. ‘I got it from a toy store for a few bucks. It’s like a normal light bulb.’
Anything else? Cool neighbours, Lotte says, grinning. ‘Fortunately, ours are pretty relaxed. Although we always ended our parties at one in the morning. We don’t need to go on all night.