Monkeypox in Philadelphia: Bar owners create their own protocols

Rubber gloves for staff. Signs at the door. Instagram posts with additional information.

Philadelphia’s nightlife industry is trying to blame the recent monkeypox outbreak. But the problem is…they don’t know exactly how.

After dealing with the COVID shutdowns, the nightlife scene is potentially at risk again. Monkeypox is mainly spread through skin-to-skin contact, which means places where people rub against each other are potential danger zones. Bar owners and staff say the main difference with COVID is that it’s less clear what their real risk is – and what they should be doing about it.

“At least with COVID there were guidelines,” said Ken Lowe Jr., the owner of LGBTQ+ bar Gayborhood Level Up. “With monkeypox, it seems like there isn’t. They don’t even really know how it’s transmitted at this point, so we’re trying to find a way to keep staff safe.

So far, Philly has recorded 257 cases of monkeypox and vaccinated more than 4,000 people against the virus. If you’re at a party or nightclub where there’s minimal clothing and skin-to-skin contact, CDC guidelines say you have “some risk” of contracting monkeypox. Venues where participants are fully clothed are safer.

South Jersey resident Andre Waters knows that nightclub transmission first-hand is possible. He caught monkeypox while partying this summer.

“People give this false pretense that you had to have sex to get monkeypox,” Waters told Billy Penn earlier this month. “But it’s been a few months, so that’s wrong. I went to a club and a few days later I ended up getting sick.

Cities and towns across North America are incorporating the nightlife industry into their responses to monkeypox. In Toronto, health officials have named specific places where monkeypox outbreaks have appeared so other clubgoers know to get tested. In New York City, city officials visited bars to raise awareness of monkeypox-related resources, and queer bars took it upon themselves to spread information to their patrons.

Meanwhile, smaller towns like Norfolk, Virginia and Evansville, Illinois have held pop-up vaccination clinics in bars.

Health Department spokesman Matthew Rankin said the city was unwilling to release patient information, which includes potential bars or clubs where cases have been contracted. But he said the department had solicited companies to distribute monkeypox fact sheets.

At this time, it doesn’t appear that many bars or nightclubs in Philadelphia have specific rules to deal with monkeypox. But some try to take small, seemingly logical precautions.

Business was steady at the Lowe’s bar throughout Philadelphia’s monkeypox outbreak. He decided to offer his security team hand sanitizer and rubber gloves as they sometimes need to pat down customers. As soon as he did that, Lowe said, his bartenders also called for protective gear.

“The bartenders asked about it and I said, ‘We have two cases of gloves. If you want to wear them, I’m not stopping you,” Lowe said.

Lowe thinks he can benefit the party crowd by providing credible information about the virus. In Level Up’s Instagram bio, the top link connects to the CDC’s monkeypox page.

The Warehouse on Watts concert hall is trying a similar approach. Chief executive Meg Bassett said they put up a sign outside their Yorktown club that lists the symptoms of monkeypox and the best way to avoid catching it: limit contact as much as possible.

“People can take stock of their bodies before entering and on the spot,” Bassett said. “I don’t think we know what to do yet until things develop, so [we’re doing] signage and information. »

If you plan to party safely, Department of Health spokesman Rankin recommends wearing full clothing, avoiding skin-to-skin contact and washing your hands often.

But not everyone in Philly nightlife has embraced monkeypox protocols. Dave Kiss books entertainment at often-crowded venues, like Kung Fu Necktie and Silk City in Fishtown. He said he hadn’t made any new rules yet; he is even more concerned about the spread of COVID.

He also worries that monkeypox could deal a similar blow to the industry.

“Monkeypox is absolutely concerning and definitely adds another layer of stress and confusion to a hectic environment. The nightlife scene in Philadelphia has been hit hard during COVID,” Kiss said. “A handful of venues and clubs n failed to cross to the other side. Another wave of infectious virus is the last thing entertainment [and] needs of the live music scene.

About James K. Bonnette

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