Tbilisi nightclub KHIDI has been closed by the Georgian authorities, according to a statement shared by the venue.
The statement said that KHIDI was ordered to close on 5th December after hosting its first club night in 21 months, following COVID-19-related shutdowns, last Friday, 3rd December.
On December 1st, new coronavirus regulations came into effect in Georgia, allowing certain industries to fully reopen using a green passport system whereby people could show they were fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative or have recently covered. Bars, theatres and stadiums were among the spaces permitted to reopen using the new system, but the club sector, KHIDI's statement said, was not included.
"Khidi's opening on 3rd December was organised in protest against the Government's decision to exclude the clubs from the list of industries that were allowed to reopen from 1st December under a new Green Passport regime," read KHIDI's statement. "Our event was organised with a 75% capacity and strictly for Green Passport holders only."
Describing the Georgian Government's decision to exclude clubs from reopening "as a big surprise", KHIDI's statement also referenced a pilot event that the club organised in cooperation with the Cultural and Creative Industries Union of Georgia that strictly followed COVID-19 protocol. "The results were very positive and demonstrated that it was safe," the club's statement read, adding that the venue was ready to open again by mid-October.
"Then the Government announced the reopening of the economy on 1st December and it became clear that our pilot event had not been taken into consideration," the statement continued. "As such, we argue that the decision to exclude clubs was not based on evidence but instead on prejudice against our culture."
The club said it has now been fined 10,000 lari (around $3,200) for organising a protest event. "It was a very harsh decision, and unprecedented because the financial penalty and the sealing of the entrance happened at once," read the statement. "Many of our supporters gathered at KHIDI. We were told to leave the club, otherwise the police would do it by force. We feel responsible for our supporters and friends and therefore left the club to avoid an escalation with the police."
Following a meeting between Tbilisi city officials and clubs, including KHIDI, on 6th December, venues have now been told they can open again from 17th December, but with a 50% capacity, and only to Green Passport holders.
"There is no other option for us than to open," concluded KHIDI's statement. "We are in a financial difficult situation. On our business loan we have accumulated a huge amount of interest over 21 months, our bank accounts frozen and private property arrested. Around 100 barmen, artists, maintenance staff, security, management people have not had any income for nearly two years."
A documentary on LGBTQI+ activism, centred around another of Tbilisi's key clubs, Bassiani, was recently released online.