In New York City, The Battle Against Coronavirus Is Real

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 22: A view of Times Square hours ahead of the implementation of 'New York State on PAUSE' executive order as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States on March 22, 2020 in New York City. The World Health Organization declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11th. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Ever since the first case of Coronavirus was recorded in the United States, up until now, so many things have been affected by the virus and it’s ensuing pandemonium. For safety purposes, the government has asked for schools and establishments to be shut down while encouraging people to work from home and self-isolate themselves for more effective safety. 

In New York City, the battle against Coronavirus is real and active. Many have taken to bicycle riding as a new means of transportation to avoid the crowded buses and trains and anything that would further push them into close contact. Many businesses have shut down as a result and many more are being affected. And just like the day life of NYC is having a hard time coping with the consequences of Coronavirus, the night life of the city is having an even harder time. 

Before the official closure directives from the Governor of NYC, some night clubs were already making the decision themselves — quite a tough decision but many realized the gravity of the situation much more than their frequent clientele who still risked their lives by having their nightlife moving. Some of these clubs that already decided to shut things down before the directives came include clubs in the Manhattan and Brooklyn region like Good Room, Nowadays, Elsewhere. The Gowanus space Public Records.

With the official directives in, many more components of the night life of NYC began to shut down. Approximately 25,000 restaurants, night clubs and bars have been affected. Now the problem wasn’t the temporary shit down of the night life but rather how those whose lives depend on this night life — local and touring DJs, booking agents, lighting artists, door workers, security guards, and bartenders and so on will go on as their basic and most viable means of survival has been taken away from them. 

The confusion has had many panicking and wondering what next, like Sophia Sempepos, who is a Brooklyn native and worked the doors at clubs like Good Room. Asides working at the doors of clubs she occasionally DJs on the side and her total income mostly ranges between from $100 to $300 from her underground work of Djing and door attendant. Her income as she says is barely enough to go on in a month. According to her she was going to survive the month of March by doing five jobs but she has recently had to cancel all and the remaining one left is about to be cancelled too. Like many other small shot DJs, she wonders when exactly she’ll be able to get back to business either on the stage or even behind the doors as the directives released only permit gatherings of 10 people — not a very good number for a clubbing activity that would require the services of a DJ or anything else. 

Like Sophia’s future, the NYC nightlife is filled and dangling with uncertainty of what the future might hold for them since the present is deeply bleak. Brooklyn’s Kristin Malossi, who performs as DJ Voices says, “The whole industry is collapsing in on itself. It feels completely unprecedented. No one knows what to do. I don’t even know what jobs there will be at the end of this.” And Curtis Pawley, the manager of the Queens club H0L0 adds, “The thing that freaks me out about all of this is that there’s no plan, no prognosis.” “We’re just gonna have to stand by with no idea if there’s going to be relief. Things are being tossed around, but we could all disappear by then. There’s no timeline.”

The present predicament of the country has placed many lives at stake, not simply for health reasons but also for financial reasons. Many who survive on the nightlife of New York do not have enough for work insurance coverages to even help alleviate their situation which inadvertently is getting worse by the night. Michael Potvin, who runs the Brooklyn lighting studio Nitemind has had it tough since the closures began and is having it worse with the tough decisions he has had to make so far such as cutting losses for postponed gigs that would have been quite lucrative and relieving some members of staff from their duties due to insufficient funds for pay. 

Many clubs, equipment rental agencies and bars are having the same situation as Michael and Sophia and even worse. Many are hoping to qualify for financial relief from the city itself or from the government — although there is still no guarantee that the relief will cover for all members of staff and other impending debts that the establishments might have. 

It is true that the government of NYC has been trying to champion and keep alive the nightlife of the city with implementations like the establishment of the Office of Nightlife and the appointment of a Nightlife Mayor, in addition to abolishing outdated and restrictive regulations and so on. But with the Coronavirus outbreak, decisions made and throughout the nightlife community were never discussed to find ways to help members of the community while working towards the health safety of the people. 

Now the community is trying to cater for itself and help its members get through the crisis. Recently, there was a a survey put together by the Office of Nightlife which began to circulate on social media amongst nightlife and service industry workers and now the many of the businesses in the community are planned to get relief from the city’s Department of Small Business Service as the spokesman for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, which oversees the Nightlife Office said to Pitchfork,  “The Office of Nightlife is communicating with businesses, workers, and all levels of government to keep the needs of the nightlife community front and center.”

While the city is making plans, the community is moving towards providing relief for its people. For that GoFundMe pages for nightlife freelancers have begun to take in contributions. On Instagram for instance, the DJ and tech worker Alyce Currier came together to launch an account called techno4hire to post job listings for those suddenly out-of-work, and it’s now working with nearly 2,000 followers. Currier says, “There’s a lot of misunderstanding of what this community represents.” “It’s a community of people who might not be comfortable working in traditional, or even tech, spaces. Instead, it’s a place where marginalized people, the trans community, and people of color have found stable and safe work. I just don’t know if we can trust the government to help us.”

And just like Alyce Currier, many who are capable are also keying in on the relief work and share the same sentiment, like Christine McCharen-Tran, a co-founder of Discwoman, an electronic music collective and talent agency. She says, “We’re talking about institutions that have never supported marginalized voices ever.” “There’s very little room for error or chaos. So, we’re trying to scramble and create infrastructure among ourselves to sustain ourselves for the next month.”

And since the nightlife is on hold, many are creating online day lives which reflect the nightlife like McCharen-Tran and Nitemind’s Michael Potvin organized a nine-hour, streaming-only daytime party called, featuring sets from nine local DJs; at points throughout each set, Venmo and Paypal links for the DJs flashed on screen for viewers to offer direct support. And the fun and solidarity doesn’t stop there, other clubs are doing their own part, like Nowadays which has been streaming live DJ sets and educational workshops as well as planning a week’s worth of streaming events running from 8 p.m. through midnight.

Justin Carter, the co-founder of Nowadays club has found a way to get the stream off the ground, as he has been exploring avenues to keep the club afloat. In a bid to help offset its monthly overhead, the club set up a Patreon account, which has already collected around 350 subscribers. Although what they are generating doesn’t cover everything it is a start and a means to keep pushing in tough times. And Carter adds, “This is about survival. There’s the psychic toll that this crisis is taking on people, but that’s been distracted by this project. Sometimes, I hear people say things like, ‘Music is the answer, I’m not sure I believe that. But I do believe it can offer some relief. And I know that there’s a community that’s grown around this space, and that it’s important to their lives, and that our staff means something to them. That makes me feel good.”