The Minister of Culture has said places where excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed while people are in close proximity should be among the last places where restrictions are lifted, Postimees reports.
Nightclubs are currently only allowed to hold parties for 100 customers on the condition that visitors adhere to the 2+2 rule, which nightclub managers deem a half-baked solution, pointing out that lounges are generally visited by a much higher number of customers, who are also dancing together, and separating them by force would be senseless.
Nightclub owners have turned to the government requesting permission to open their facilities at the end on July for at least 500 customers at a time as the same rule applies to gatherings and events held indoors.
The minister of culture, Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa), whose area of governance also includes nightclubs as cultural institutions, is wary of the proposal.
"Nightclubs are handled separately everywhere from [other] concerts and shows," he said. "According to health experts, places where the consumption of alcohol and other substances occasionally leads to loss of control and where people spend extended periods in close proximity of one another, should be among the last ones where restrictions are lifted."
Lukas said he hopes the lifting of all restrictions will be green-lit by health professionals in early September, and he is working towards this goal.
However, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications supports relaxing the restrictions imposed on nightclubs.
"We have made a corresponding proposal to the Government Office, whose task is to prepare the government's agenda," Laura Laaster, spokesperson for the ministry, said.
"The [anti-COVID-19] research council advising the government bases its position on relaxing restrictions on the past 14 days' infection trends and the government reviews the restrictions every two weeks. The matter regarding nightclubs will be on the government's agenda for the July 30 session," she said.
Rauno Otsepp, owner of one of Tallinn's best known nightclubs, Club Hollywood, told Postimees this week that unless nightclubs are allowed to reopen, many of them will likely close their doors permanently.
"I'm actually very surprised that our sector has fared this well despite drastic restrictions, and that no bankruptcies have been announced. But this won't last forever. We're definitely going to see some very difficult times in the fall," he said.
Editor: Helen Wright