Concerns for the future of nightlife industry as COVID-19 pandemic persists

Bars and clubs reopening have given some people eager to socialize a place to go and helped small business owners and employees trying to stay afloat. Others say the risk of COVID-19 is too high.
8:06 | 08/04/20

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Transcript for Concerns for the future of nightlife industry as COVID-19 pandemic persists
Reporter: What was supposed to be a secret rave in New York turned into packed crowds. People dancing shoulder-to-shoulder, few wearing masks. Reporter: Scenes like this sparking national outrage and causing authorities to crack down across the United States. Landed a party boat's captain and owners in hot water. Reporter: Videos on social media of people drinking and living it up. Igniting a debate fearing that crowds could be contributing to rise in covid cases. Other remain consistent they feel safe and have right to is this first time out? Every day for past four months. Reporter: Feel safe? Completely. Reporter: Tougher decision to get a drink? Honestly no. Reporter: 15 states seeing increase in cases and over 155,000 people have already died from the virus. As the cases continue to climb, night life industry is center of national controversy. Lawmakers from at least 16 states putting a pause or reversing the opening of bars and restaurants as they fear people socializing may be contributing to surge in the pandemic. We cannot move forward if a few knuckleheads think the rules don't apply to them. States need to close their bars. Reporter: People cooped up at homes fighting to be out. Just last weekend, a chain smoker's convert in the Hamptons, party Goers packed together with no masks on caused national uproar, many questioning how there could be a concert in middle of the pandemic. Nothing could stop me from participating. Reporter: Grace Lee was one who attended. People so respectful, dancing on top of car whole time, well distanced. Reporter: What would you say to people practicing social distancing saying your decision to do this is selfish. Maybe it was a little bit selfish, actually. I guess I could have avoided it, stayed at home. I participated because I knew I was going to have the space to socially distance, and knew I wasn't putting anyone else at risk. Not riskier than going to grocery store, standing in line at bank. Reporter: Organizers say they followed the guidelines from the CDC, collaborated with state and local health officials and followed all proper and current protocol and said event raised money for no kid hungry, south Hampton fresh air home and of New York. People trying to promote social distancing and public health are doing a great job, don't have an easy job. Don't want to take anything from their efforts. But I don't think we can continue in this way of nothing is allowed. Things have to be allowed within certain guidelines. Reporter: Backlash to the chain smokers concert, a reminder of what is still at stake. Venues remain closed as owners try to figure out how and if we should be partying at all. I don't know if night life comes back unless they really have it under control. Reporter: David grutman, the king of Miami night life, counts a-listers like dj khaled as closest friends. You made the decision to close your clubs, some of the biggest in the United States. Talk to me a little bit about the decision that went into actually closing those. We had heard other places being closed around the country. Then when we saw they stopped international travel, we knew it was time to pause. Reporter: Clubs remained closed, he opened up restaurants in may following state guidelines after Florida made decision to lift restrictions. When Florida opened, people came in droves, and we kind of were a little bit nave, opened the floodgates a little bit too early, especially my places. Reporter: Florida has some of the highest rates of covid. He counts himself lucky, hospitality group is large enough to stay afloat for the time being. A lot of small business owners are struggling with the decision to open their bars. What would your advice be to them as they struggle? I know it's tough. Landlords are calling. Make deals is best I can tell you, but just go slow. We've got to get rid of this. Reporter: For Bill Nye, the science guy, intergenerational icon of all things molecular, says the science points to just being safer to stay at home. Close together at bar without a face mask, going to spray droplets, other things that happen in bars, I don't want to shock you, some people's inhibitions go down. Reporter: Using household items, illustrated how bars and restaurants could be a breeding ground for the virus. Droplet from your breath is like a popcorn kernel in maple syrup. It falls after a while, but not right away because the syrup is thick. Same is true of droplets from your breath in the air, the air is thick. Reporter: When we talk, particles from our breath stick in the air the same way? Yes. Air is viscous enough if you're a droplet from a human sneeze, the droplet couldn't fall very fast in viscous air. It's unlikely if you're 30 feet away you get enough viral load. That's why everybody's talking about social or physical distancing. Reporter: As the public plays by their own rules and state guidelines change weekly, some small bar owners don't have the luxury of waiting things out. How do I manage my finances when I don't know when I'm going to make money again. Reporter: Bar owner in Lexington, Kentucky, shut in June after state ordered them to close. Uncertainty was scary, especially two months of being shut down. Reporter: After seeing uptick in covid cases, Kentucky ordered all bars closed again. Restaurants could remain open with limited capacity indoors and unlimited outdoor dining. To get around the restriction, had to get creative. When they initially reopened restaurants in early June there was option for bars to get a permit to offer food. And remain open. So I kind of got the wheels in motion, got working on it. Reached out to a very popular deli that was able to provide packaged, sealed sandwiches. Reporter: That permit is the only reason why his bar has stayed open. We're all fighting for our survival. Reporter: Ability to adapt and roll with the punches. Unique quality in being a night life owner in 2020, as the pandemic continues on and their future remains uncertain. People I know in night life want to get back to work, make money, but want to do it responsibly. They will wait. Bigger groups can afford to do that, smaller places can't. Reporter: For "Nightline," aschen sing, in Manhattan.

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