Covid Clubs is a documentary on (mostly) independent music venues ecosystem in Poland during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. I’m interested in nightlife as an industry, employing many people on unstable contracts and in precarious conditions. Documentations of empty dancefloors was expanded with portraits of owners, managers and workers of visited places, together with interviews about their take on the whole situation.

The 2020 lockdown caused by COVID-19 pandemic caused all the clubs and music venues to be closed abruptly.

"The most stable in this situation is that we know nothing - the things we do on a daily basis are pretty much out of the picture for any level of government plans, so now, a month after the pandemic is announced, we do not know whether we will remain closed for next week, month or year."

- Witek, owner of Hydrozagadka and Chmury.

"We really just started to fully function. We were supposed to have our first birthday the weekend before the lockdown, so we were twice as sad. From the beginning, we think of ourselves as a collective. That's why we released the compilation, because in the flood of events on the stream we lacked some collected statements from the producers, and if it wasn't for them, it would not have been all. Now the biggest pain is planning how to go on from where we are now, because we would like to book parties for fall, but no one knows what will happen then, whether the nightlife will come back. There is uncertainty. We want to make up for that canceled birthday when fall comes, as well."

- Ola, 999.

"What is outside the spotlight of the public opinion is the situation of employees in gastronomy and/or enterntainment business. Generally speaking, this is not a group that earns unbelievably high amounts of money, and suddenly this group was left unable to earn this money almost overnight. In addition to being a club, we are also a social cooperative, and we don't want to leave anyone working with us overboard. We will do everything to prevent firing anyone. Were it not for the support of these people on the public fundraiser, these twenty-few people would likely not have a livelihood, because first there was a lockdown, and then there was questioning and wondering how and whether to support places like ours at all."

- Zuzia and Gosia, members of Pogłos cooperative.

"At this point, people can again freely spend time outdoors, and we have a large garden – but we cannot even open an ice cream parlor here, as all such activities are still forbidden. Well, we are trying to use this time somehow sensibly, and we do cleaning and renovation work so that in a while, when everything opens, it all looks impressive."

- Adrian, owner of Iskra

“We try to guess and go round and round. What's next? Will it be like in Italy before finally closing everything? Will the gardens move? We strive to retain employees, find tasks for them, do repairs, and spend what we have been able to put down in recent years. Whatever the government says, we will sooner support each other than this help will come from outside. When it ends, we will make a big party. I don't know who will play yet, but I know that I won't leave here for days.”

– Michał, co-owner of Plan B and other clubs

Michał and I talked in his car, as Plan B is undergoing small renovation, to help the bar crew earn some extra money. Plac Zbawiciela, typically crowded with people and synonymical with nightlife in Warsaw, wasn't empty; we were observed closely by the police.

Last party in Pogłos was a book premiere. I'd been there. I was happy to see the book I helped to develop a little being published and talked. I drank few gin and tonics. Next morning, I woke up only to learn that my hungover isn't my biggest problem, and spent the entire day on grocery shopping in panic. The next day, everything closed. I was sure it will take two weeks, at best. Then it became apparent that it will take much more, and that not everything was yet closed – but it became so in no time. More than a month later, a small sign welcoming the guests at the book event was still there.
After three months of work on this project, some restrictions were loosened. Bars started to open, clubs started to plan how to change their regular functions into those that possibly could let them to opening, and thus surviving.

"All we could do was to organize some stream TV. I was going nuts a little. So, we went into a cooperation with BWA Gallery, with an unusual project coming out of that, for those missing art. The exhibition from the closed gallery was moved to a bus that you could order as a take-away, like a taxi. Over time, I learned to assemble the entire exhibition in a few minutes."

- Horsy, co-manages Wyspa Tamka, plays music
Upstairs part of Wyspa Tamka is frozen in time, as it was left after last party in March. But courtyard is thriving, and the very day I visited the club, the crew was busy with landscaping the new beach.
Czuła jest Noc also opened the day it was legal again. No parties are being hosted, but you can visit for a beer – but, for the moment the photographs were taken, only people you could sit with were members of your household.
Luzztro was preparing for a sort of opening that day. DJs are playing on the main floor, but they are being recorded and streamed to the other room – or internet.
First concert in Pogłos after the lockdown was organised in the end of June. Due to safety measures, the stage was moved outside, to the back ramp of the club.

Nobody knows when – and if – the clubs and nightlife will get back to the old normal. Clubbing and culture isn't necessary the key point for strategical planning of Polish government, so most of the places relied on community created by people involved. As for now, there’s still no permission to reopen clubs, but most of them try to find a way to function under this partial lockdown.

But, we don’t know how long it will be this way.