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- Sebastian Richter
Club operators on Corona rules: ‘Acceptance is dropping’
Thomas Winterscheid runs the "Ponyhof" in Frankfurt’s party district Alt-Sachsenhausen. In the interview, he finds clear words on the Corona policy.
Mr. Winterscheid, how do you feel as a club operator in these times?
One does not know currently what is going on. We are sitting in the waiting position. At any moment the news could come that we are allowed to reopen. If we, as operators, were given clear announcements, we would be able to better adapt.
How does it feel to be treated by politics as a club operator?
One has the feeling that the pandemic measures are sometimes carried out on our backs. Again it is we who must close. It sucks. The measures apply only selectively. Why again only the clubs? Why don’t we just close them all down? Why can a bar or a gym be open but we have to close down?
I believe this feeling is also shared by the population. One could see the next Corona wave coming, we were warned about Omikron, why is there again a half-hearted regulation? It’s all way too lax what we do. Politicians should shut down all areas completely for a short time to break the curve faster.
Clubs in times of Corona: "Days under 2G-Plus were a disaster"
So would you like to see tougher measures?
Yep, so definitely equal measures for all and everywhere. I don’t know if it would be nicer if I were allowed to open under certain measures. The measures taken were either too hard or too soft. If rules are too lax, then it just delays the situation- and effectively costs lives. Makes a hard lockdown, which actually brings an improvement. Instead bars were allowed to open. And then the bars will be turned into clubs – that’s not the point.
What would be your suggestion for appropriate action in clubs?
Let the club run under 2G. Leave out the quick test rule. That didn’t work for us in the first place. Because even this rule was not fair for us as a rather small club: not everyone can put up a tent in front of the door for different reasons. I understand why 2G-Plus is done, it doesn’t work for us though. From my point of view this rule only makes sense if 2G-Pluswould be introduced everywhere. So also in the restaurants and so on. Because if people- no matter what they do in public- need a test, then in the end they come to us too.
To the person
Thomas Winterscheid is the operator of the "Ponyhof" club in Alt-Sachsenhausen in Frankfurt. The 41-year-old has another mainstay as a DJ and spins under the name Funktomas in clubs and at parties.
Why do you think this rule is not implemented??
Since people would have to be tested every day, this would probably be difficult to realize. But I would find this rule at least fair. Under 2G we could work halay, but the days under 2G+ were a disaster. Every club that had a test station in front of the door had an advantage in that way. As a small club we have no place for it. This is a form of distortion of competition. Because if I can go to the club and get tested there directly, most people do that. We had to turn away many who didn’t have time for a test, or couldn’t get one anymore.
Ponyhof" club in Frankfurt: operator misses clear message from politicians
Since when is the Ponyhof now closed again?
Since the 03. December. We didn’t close at that time because we absolutely had to and otherwise we would be punished – there were simply too few guests. The guests effectively did not come. At that point, it was already clear that Omikron was on its way. Besides, the first clubs have already started to close. As with the first lockdown, no clear announcements came from the politicians. We knew that from the point where you have to wear a mask in the club and keep your distance, no one would come and it would not be worthwhile to open the club.
But the Ponyhof should open as a gastronomy itself? So the club be turned into a bar?
Theoretically yes. But we are a club – end. A "serious" bar I can’t just do quickly, that’s a completely different concept. And to disguise the club as a bar in order to party is simply illegal. I want guests to see and encounter the Pony Yard as they know it.
Continue to hold a closure financially?
I have used the time and rebuilt. So a lot of money has been put into the Ponyhof, so we will continue to do so. We’ve worked so hard for so long to get this place up and running that we can’t throw in the towel now. Besides, the end of the pandemic is foreseeable.
In what way?
Science says Corona pandemic is gradually becoming endemic. We can’t get rid of Corona himself, that’s clear by now. But it looks like the virus is starting to become controllable. Omicron should cause a milder course and fewer deaths- and finally actually become soahnlich like the flu- as certain factions have been claiming for a long time. So now we have to learn to deal with the virus "normally" again to live. At least in our region there is a relatively high vaccination rate, I assume that the issue could be settled in one to two years for us.
Frankfurt: "Acceptance of reasonable club operators is falling"
And if that does not happen? If every winter a new wave comes and the pony farm has to close again?
The acceptance of reasonable club operators, by which I mean my own, is so slowly sinking. The cycle of opening and closing is of course very annoying. I can survive like this, but I don’t make any money. As a self-employed person I would have to save for my future, but under the current circumstances this is not possible.
What could the policy do better?
I try to have understanding for the actions of politics. But what always annoys me is that the same understanding is not returned. Warm words do not help us.
What fears do you have as a club operator for the future?
It is important that the bridging aids are maintained. I have no desire for a hair-trigger reckoning once normality returns at some point. One gets the money under reservation, one has then for the time being. But then later it will be seen whether that was justified. I and probably other club operators fear that as soon as the measures of the Corona pandemic are finished and the topic has disappeared from the media, that then the big billing starts afterwards. It does not have to happen, but I am afraid of it. I would not be surprised. Then, in hindsight, questions might be asked like, "Did you really need that?? Would that have been absolutely necessary?" And that then reclaims are made under certain pretexts.
How could this look like?
Just now I have a plumber in the store, who maintains and repairs the heating system. Something like this, for example, is supported by the bridging aids. Now I am afraid that in two years the office will ask: "Couldn’t they have found a cheaper craftsman?? Why didn’t you ask for three offers etc.?."Then I have to argue and justify myself in retrospect and end up sitting on costs because of such things. Anyone can quickly try the three quote question for themselves: Currently, try to have three heating people come to you next week for a quote. Have fun. I’m glad I found someone at all, who has time, and competent to do so.
According to Corona: "Ponyhof" in Frankfurt has to "start quasi from scratch"
How has the contact with the regulars changed in the last months?
I must say, at the beginning of the pandemic there was clearly more. The one or other I have already spoken, but with time it has become less.
Would you like to see tougher controls?
Clearly, yes. I insist that the Corona rules are respected and that is also controlled. Because I stick to it. There are certainly black sheep. And in the end we are the ones who suffer, we who follow the rules.
Are you optimistic for the future?
I am as optimistic as one can be as a restaurateur in these times. I know that the pandemic will be over sooner or later. I just hope that people will then go back out the door again. But since so much time has passed since the outbreak of the pandemic, I will have to reopen the store as if I were starting all over again. Starting from scratch, so to speak. And that is quite frustrating after 12 years of successful work. (Interview: Sebastian Richter)