Hand me the glow sticks, the clubs are back!
You'll be relieved to know I'm not going to subject Cheltenham to my unique variant of dad dancing any time soon but the lifting of most Covid restrictions did take me on a daytime visit to some local venues along with council officers recently.
The 'night-time economy' is a huge Cheltenham success story, catering to as many as 10,000 people a night in around 100 town centre bars and clubs before the pandemic, drawing people into Cheltenham and contributing tens of millions to our local economy. But it all fell silent during lockdown at huge cost to the businesses themselves and everyone from taxis to distilleries.
Since Cheltenham's Lib Dem-led council has made recovery one of its top priorities this year, alongside climate change and more affordable housing, rebuilding that night-time economy is vital.
But doing this safely as we learn to live with the virus is clearly going to be a challenge. The third wave might have peaked but Covid case numbers are still pretty high locally. And while the link with hospitalisation seems to have been broken by vaccination, there are still risks even to young people from long Covid, new variants and just from the very small percentage who will still fall ill despite their jabs.
So it was great to see the best venues like the fabulously refurbished Home & Botanic at Royal Well taking wise steps including ferocious ventilation to keep the air fresh (not like the clubs in my day..) and offering QR codes, free masks and temperature checks as well staffing up to counter the so-called 'pingdemic' of staff having to self-isolate. Clubbers need to stay away if they test positive, are told to self-isolate or think they might be symptomatic. Our dozy government has left councils with few tools to enforce Covid health and safety now so we're relying on smart businesses and clubbers to do the right thing.
My own health and safety is probably best served by staying off Home's Saturday Night Fever-style dance floor altogether.
- Cllr Martin Horwood, Cabinet Member for Customer and Regulatory Services, including planning and licensing