I won’t beat around the bush: Oxford’s nightlife is looking pretty bleak this term. Coronavirus has kneecapped this city’s “once thriving” club scene. In some cases, lockdown may have proved to be too harsh a storm to weather, meaning some venues might never reopen, and most of the student favourites will be remaining dark until next year, with a handful of exceptions which have adapted to the new legislation and are trying valiantly to provide some form of escapism from the rigmarole of academia. Here is a rundown of the ten biggest venues in Oxford and what their plans are for Michaelmas.
Plush will be open this term! You can visit Oxford’s premier gay club between 5 and 10pm Monday to Saturday. They are operating a fully seated bar with table service and they have reduced capacity by 75%, so table booking (at plushoxford.com/bookings) is strongly recommended. Their infamous ‘Freshers Party’ nights will be returning with all their DJs working remotely. Management says, “Plush is delighted to welcome back Oxford students for the forthcoming Michaelmas Term and looks forward to meeting the freshers as they start an exciting chapter in their lives.”
Not exactly a nightclub, but still a great spot for music and drinks in the evenings, FREUD will also be welcoming returning students this Michaelmas. Evening opening times are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 4pm – 10pm. Also, FREUD will open in the daytime (10am to 5pm) serving “teas, coffees, and hot lunches”.
Gideon Freud, general manager, hopes the venue will be a “socially distanced study space during term.” He invites students to “come down with your laptop and books and settle in with us for the day.”
They are currently working at 50% capacity, with maximum groups of 6 from 2 different households. All staff will have their temperature checked before their shift and they’ll be performing table service wearing masks and gloves. FREUD has also set up their own app to order drinks and pay, although they will still be accepting regular cash and card payments. Patrons will have to provide their contact details for the NHS track and trace service.
Hank’s is another bar-nightclub hybrid and fans will be happy to hear that it will also be open during the term. Their website doesn’t give much away, but they have updated their opening times to read “7 days a week 5 – 10pm, Monday to Saturday and 2 – 10pm on Sunday”. Their exact capacity isn’t clear, but it has been reduced, so table booking is once again recommended. DJs will still be taking requests, but don’t expect the dancefloor to be open.
The Varsity Club
The Varsity Club have reopened their roof terrace, cocktail lounge and restaurant and will be serving 7 days a week, 12 – 10 pm.
The bar and dancefloor will not be open, but they are hosting socially distanced discos on their rooftop terrace. More info, including COVID regulations, can be seen on the Varsity Events Facebook page. One of their regulations confusingly reads “If you are wearing a mask when you visit us…” – IF?
Oxford’s self-proclaimed ‘Superclub’ will be opening for socially distanced, fully seated events throughout the term. These will also be announced through the Varsity Events Facebook page. Tickets are £20(!) on FIXR.
The O2 Academy
The O2 has either cancelled or postponed all its upcoming events for the next few months. Anyone not trying to downplay their fandom of Morrisey and The Smiths will have to wait until this time next year to catch their tribute band The Smyths performing in Oxford.
The Bully’s website “regret[s] to inform everyone that The Bullingdon Venue and Cocktail Bar is closed until further notice.” If only the same could be said about the real Bullingdon Club.
Sandy’s Piano Bar
Sandy’s Piano Bar posted on Facebook on September the 22nd that unfortunately they will be closing their doors until 2021.
Atik (aka. Park End)
According to their website, The Atik national chain of nightclubs will be remaining temporarily closed.
Fever has been closed since late March, with no plans to open any time soon.
There is absolutely no information out there about whether Cirkus will be open this term, and all their contact lines are dead. Both their website and Instagram route to 404 – not an auspicious sign.
There is no doubt that this slim offering is going to make socialising and relaxing a lot more difficult for students this term. It’s likely that many will substitute club nights for illicit dorm room parties that break COVID regulations and put participants at risk, not just of contracting the virus, but also from disciplinary action from colleges. What is to be done though? Nightclubs are a hotbed of physical contact and exchange of fluids at the best of times – ban these things, and what appeal is left?