Dibora Samson

V Lounge: Taken before COVID-19

Tewodros Mola (DJ Tedy), a 31-years-old father of one has been leading his life as a DJ for the past twelve years in Addis Ababa.  Tewodros was working permanently in St. George Night Club at Piassa when the COVID-19 outbreak started in Addis forcing the government to order the shutdown of clubs.

Due to the Shutdown of St. George Night club, Tewodros who used to manage his family from the income he earned from the club business is now forced to be unemployed.

 “It has almost been four months since I become unemployed. I have no other source of income, I am forced to sell my properties to support my family. The situation left me to be in a state of confusion right now.” Says Tewodros.

Before COVID 19 the nightlife in Addis was a bustling scene with hundreds of nightclubs scattered across the city and several event organizers hosting creative parties, get-togethers, and concerts almost every day. The industry was on track to become one of the most lucrative sectors supporting thousands of artists and other stakeholders when the pandemic broke out forcing it to a grinding halt.

With the overwhelming majority of the nightclubs and events depending on DJ performances, DJs’ role has been like a backbone for nightlife in Addis, and with the hiccup in the sector career, DJs who depended entirely on the nightly performances have been significantly affected.

Ethiopian DJ’s association which has over 5000 DJ members within the country is currently working on to get a number of D’s out of the moral and financial damages they are in at this time. The Association has come up with a new initiative to create a job opportunity for at least 500 DJ members in the Association.

“The pandemic has almost blocked every possible ways for us to work,” Says DJ Aron, President of the Association. “To overcome this challenge, the association has  submitted a proposal to three different government bodies on how the DJs can stay in the industry while applying the COVID precautionary measures. We have seen a sign of encouraging feedback so far.”

It is not only the DJs that were hit by the forced closure. To reduce the possible damage caused by the pandemic, the government has ordered every nightclub in the country to shut down its doors since mid-March. Following the order, several Nightclubs in Addis Ababa are closed to face a substantial economic hit.

Among the night clubs facing a huge loss due to the shutdown is Brixton Night club, a club located on Bole Street that has been serving its customers for over three years. The nightclub closed its door on 21 March and is still suffering from the hit. Though the club has benefited from two months of rental waivers, it is struggling to keep its employees on payroll by the government’s order.

“In alliance with other club owners, we have established Club owners association a month ago to address our current situation for the government,” explains Blen Goitom, Owner of Brixton Night club. “Night clubs are among the taxpayers generating a huge amount of revenue for the country’s economy, we are waiting for the government to find us a way to get back to business. Without such government support, it’s going to be very distressful for us.” Warns Blen.

Though the largest pipeline of its income from the club business has stopped due to the shutdown, V lounge, a popular destination for its band performances predominantly playing Ethiopian hits from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, has been attempting to keep its 90 employees by re-opening its restaurant a month ago. The Nightclubs shutdown has broken the good reputation V lounge has been building in seven months of its operation in its new location around Wollo Sefer.

“The income from our club has stopped, that has crippled us financially,” says Ermias Tilahun, owner of V lounge. “We have reported the situation to the concerned government bodies, and currently we are waiting for their response,” Ermias adds.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be devastating for the city’s economy, thousands, whose livelihoods depend on the nightlife continue to suffer from the economic hit. They all agree the government needs to roll out a direction to re-opening of night clubs in the city. Otherwise, the whole nightlife in Addis may crumble completely.

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