The truth about Dubai's dance ban rumours. Is it sinful to Salsa or a bad thing to boogie. We put our dancing shoes aside to find out.
Andy Buchan and Jeremy Lawrence
Renowned for its balmy weather, and increasingly, for its world-beating entertainment set up, Dubai has rightly become one of the leading tourist destinations in the world. But with news that outdoor dancing is to be curtailed by the authorities, what will happen to the city’s al fresco club scene?
What they did: During the week, 360° was a bustling venue that played a mix of soul, funk and house tunes. But it was during the weekend that it really came alive. Friday nights were dedicated to the best in electronic music thanks to the Audio Tonic events and were broadcast by Radio 1 across the nation. Saturdays, meanwhile, were a more laid back affair and featured international DJs employing an anything-goes musical policy. Both nights were hugely successful (queues for over an hour were a common occurrence) and an impressive line-up for 2008 was already confirmed.
What they will do: A Jumeirah spokesman… ‘The venue is operating at the moment, though we will comply with Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing [DTCM] regulations, whatever they may be. As it’s an outdoor venue, there will be no loud music and the music will be background only. At this stage, I can’t say whether there will be dancing and DJs – we are having further meetings with the DTCM, so we’ll know more then. It’s likely that changes will be made to the venue so that we can return to the same sort of events as we’ve had previously. Amendments will be made to comply with the DTCM – it’s in everybody’s interests to sort this out.’
New Year’s Eve: ‘As far as we know, this is being treated as a one-off night, so we expect to be going ahead with our plans.’ [Robbie Williams’ tour DJ Chris Coco is due to play].
Barasti Bar, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi
What they did: A mega-popular Dubai institution, Barasti Bar regularly attracts over 3,000 visitors at the weekend. Many come for the live music, while the addition of a club-style bar downstairs has been a real boon for the venue.
What they will do: Michael Scully, General Manager of Le Meridien Mina Seyahi... . ‘The Barasti stays exactly as it is. The music carries on upstairs, the only difference is we won’t allow dancing. Downstairs, the DJ will move inside and there will be background music only next to the beach. Because the bar is a long way from the hotel, it doesn’t disturb residents.’
New Year’s Eve: ‘The authorities are sympathetic to New Year’s Eve because it is one night of the year. What they don’t want is disturbances 365 days of the year, and I can understand that. What they are stressing is that we show due diligence and don’t disturb residents. We understand where they are coming from. If it’s not socially acceptable, then we don’t want to do it either.
What they did: One of the best nightspots in the world, let alone the UAE, Trilogy’s rooftop was permanently packed every weekend and most weeknights. A wide-range of DJs and semi-live acts performed on the 400-capacity terrace overlooking the Madinat and the Burj Al Arab. On New Year’s Eve, they’d planned to have Ce Ce Peniston perform.
What they will do: Marc Wise, Trilogy club manager ‘I think the whole clubbing community is shocked by the announcement of no dancing or performers in an outside venue – it has really hurt Trilogy. People from all over the world visit us – the top VIPs from across the region and beyond are regular guests to our rooftop. Within 48 hours of the rule coming into action, our rooftop was empty. With just background lounge music playing, people no longer want to stay up there. I’m absolutely devastated. I truly believe that the entertainment industry plays a big role in the whole tourist industry of Dubai. Many people arrive from colder climates and they love being able to party in safe, beautiful outside venues. To have that option taken away now is a shame. I can understand concerns about noise pollution, but in the three years that Trilogy’s rooftop has been open, I don’t think there have been that many complaints. It’s usually when the wind changes direction, but these instances have been very few and far between.’
New Year’s Eve The event will go ahead in the main room as planned. At the time of going to press, a meeting with the DTCM was scheduled for later in the week to decide what will happen on the Rooftop.
Sho Cho, Dubai Marine Beach & Spa
What they did: A swanky restaurant by day, Sho Cho’s outside terrace became a dancefloor haven at night. Tuesdays, helmed by Frederick Stone and promoted by Deep Nights, were hugely popular while Sundays played host to a busy 80s night.
What they will do: Raed Dabous, Managing Partner We’ll continue to play music, but at a level that doesn’t bother anyone. We’ll stand by our agreement with Dubai Marine Beach & Spa and directives by the DTCM. Our DJ will be inside; outside, music will be kept to a reasonable level so as not to offend anyone. We are in business – yes, the business of fun – but a business all the same. Would you close the whole advertising industry down if one company made a mistake? We’ve never had a problem or complaint from anyone in eight years, so this is a big problem for us all. That said, we want to co-operate and keep things in order. We’re playing music at an acceptable background level, we haven’t been closed down and it’s business as normal.’
New Year’s Eve ‘We’ve sold our tickets for New Year and the event will go ahead as planned.’
What they did: A four-roomed venue that re-opened at the start of 2007, Chi’s pride and joy is undoubtedly the garden area. Capable of holding 2,000 clubbers, it’s hosted some of the world’s best and biggest DJs and also a several live gigs. What they will do: As Chi is covered on the sides by buildings and has a large circular covering over the dancefloor, it’s technically classed as an indoor venue and so can continue with its regular club nights and gigs.
New Year’s Eve: The scheduled events will go ahead as planned. Event agencies The concert promoters who Time Out spoke to were unaware of any changes to the regulations covering their events. Sean Rashid from Sean Rashid Productions NY, the company behind the recent 50 Cent show, had no new directives governing that show at Media City, although they were told to enforce strict security measures to ensure the event ran smoothly – including a whopping 125 security guards and CCTV cameras. CSM, who are currently putting together the next installment of Desert Rock were also unaware of any new changes. ‘We haven’t heard anything from the authorities,’ said managing Director Jackie Wartanian. ‘We’re all set to go ahead as planned.’ Nasim Tabatabaei, Marketing and PR Manager for Mirage Promotions echoed that message. ‘We’re just working on our permissions for the Santana show and we haven’t had any problems – probably because we do one-off ticketed events away from residential areas.’
DJ promoters Mike Bufton, 360° resident DJ and promoter of the Audio Tonic nights, gives his thoughts on the ban.
What will Audio Tonic and Revolve do now that dancing and loud music is not allowed outside after 8pm? To be honest, I’m going to remain optimistic about the solution. The nights will continue every Friday and Saturday (AudioTonic Sunset Sessions and Revolve) at 360° as it’s still very much open for business, but we shall abide by the wishes of the DTCM and keep the music volume low. The radio broadcast on Radio 1 (104.1 & 100.5FM) shall, for the meantime, be carried out in the studio.
How reliant on international DJs are you? Extremely. We pride ourselves on bringing the finest up and coming producer and DJs, as well as blossoming talent – it makes us who we are, especially where the live broadcast is concerned. We give the listener a chance to hear these guys first.
Your primary job is at 360° – how much of an impact will this have on your work? It has a huge impact on my job. I’m the brand manager for Audio Tonic; I pretty much eat, sleep and breathe the job. Yes, we could probably relocate to another venue and be successful, I don’t doubt that, but I don’t want to do that. 360° and Audio Tonic are two unique experiences.
You have a number of resident DJs as well – are they going to have to find alternative jobs? No they won’t. Optimism and a positive attitude towards this matter will prevail.
Will 360° be altered so that it complies with the new regulations (roof, side panels etc) and if so, how long is it likely to take? If that’s what it takes, I’m sure it will, yes.
You’ve presumably booked your DJs for the next couple of months – will you suffer financially due to these changes? As we know, not all flights are refundable, so we’ll lose money on those for sure. Hotel bookings can be reverted so that’s not a problem. We are also lucky to have a very good relationship with our DJs, so luckily we don’t have agents threatening us.