As September dawned, so did Club Ozone’s special liquor licence that allowed the nightclub to trade from 0200hrs to 0400hrs, extending the hours stipulated in the new Liquor Regulations, that came into force on the 1st April this year. The regulations specified that all nightclubs should close at 12 o’clock midnight from Monday to Thursday, and 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Club Ozone was the last nightclub in the country operating with such a licence and its owner, Steve Raman, says, “We have no choice but to operate under the stipulated times.”
The High Court had ruled in favour of the Ozone, Club Havana, Satchmos Jazz club, which all belong to Raman, and Club Catch 22, to carry on operating as long as the validity of their licences allowed them.
Of the new hours, Raman, however, believes that it will never be the same again. Though he says his clubs have been doing fairly well providing a platform for local musicians and DJs and bringing in musicians from outside.
“Patrons come into clubs when the bars close. Operating for two hours from 12 midnight means, we won’t be making as much, but our overheads stay the same. Rental is very high,” said Raman. “However we are trying to engage government on this issue and talking to our lawyers.”
Raman, who owns four nightclubs, says that he will have no choice but to retrench a bulk of his staff.
“Bouncers and waitresses will have to go. We are now forced to operate with a skeleton staff.”
A club that has felt the brunt of the new regulations for the past three months is Trekkers Nightclub in Maun. Club owner, Tops Masole, says, “My turnover has dropped by 80% from operating for about an hour. At one point, we would have people not turn up at the club at all.”
From an 18-strong staff he originally had, he has six waitresses and two bouncers left.
“I had three resident DJs and had to retain only one of them. I had no choice but to retrench.”
Masole tells Sunday Standard that it is no secret that his business is underperforming and can barely make ends meet.
“I blame the government for not wanting to give nightclubs a chance. They do not care about us; we are business people who took loans to assist us and can barely pay them now. The government won’t give the small businessman a chance.
“We hear that the hours were changed because the public says they don’t want liquor in the community, but not everyone who comes to the club comes to get drunk,” Masole says, a statement that was repeated by Raman
Adds Masole, “There is barely any recreational facilities in the country; people go out to clubs to socialise, not all go there to get drunk. Sporting events take place during the day. So people need a place to go to at night.”
Masole said that nightlife makes up part of the appeal of a tourist destination.