Portsmouth sees huge crowds of revellers return to The Astoria nightclub at 12.01am as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted
DANCING has returned to Portsmouth – and hundreds of clubbers were ready to pack out the city’s dancefloors as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted at the stroke of midnight.
With first song ‘Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)’ blasting, a shoulder-to-shoulder line of almost 1,000 mask-less punters poured into The Astoria nightclub in Guildhall Walk – and lost no time brushing up on their dance moves.
It was a special night for Harvey Frost, who turned 18 in May, and Paulina Grzeszczyk, who turned 18 in November, as the pair were out celebrating their ‘first big night out’.
Harvey added: ‘Well, I have been out before tonight.
‘But just drinking lemonade, of course.’
Paulina said: ‘It feels incredible – it’s been a long time coming.’
At the very front of the queue was Alfie Thomas, who turned 18 in February, and came out dressed in a pink dress with matching pink and blue dyed hair.
The Emsworth resident said: ‘I have been out every night but this is the first night I can get out there on the dance floor and get twerking.’
The night marked an emotional moment for many members of staff – ranging from DJs to fire-breathing stilt-walkers – who have seen their livelihoods thrown into disarray over the last 18 months.
DJ Turner James said he saw his income drop last year, causing his mental health to deteriorate as he wondered if he would ever regain his old life.
The 22-year-old said: ‘It’s been incredibly challenging.
‘It feels incredible to be back – and I won’t be playing any songs with the words “lockdown” or “virus” in them.’
The nightclub reopens with a new silent disco area with a capacity for 500 punters, according to owner Alistair Ritchie.
The club’s founder said: 'We’re so excited to open our doors again as nightclubs after having been restricted for an incredible 483 days, The Astoria plays a key social role in the heart of our local and student population attracting customers from all over the south coast.
‘During the Covid restricted period we had over 60,000 people through our doors which shows there is a strong desire for late night entertainment.
With new Covid-19 infections surging to more than 48,000 a day, the club owner predicts vaccination passports will become mandatory across society.
He said: ‘Customers will not require a Covid vaccination passport or face masks, however we would encourage younger people to get vaccinated as we can see the government making vaccination passports compulsory throughout society.’
And the night club has a contingency plan should a coronavirus outbreak lead half the venue’s staff into self-isolation.
General manager Mark Rumbold said: ‘We are well overstaffed and they are being split into shifts so in theory if all the staff here get pinged (by the NHS’s Covid-19 apps) we have a back up plan.’