'Like New Year's Eve' - Clubbers return to dance floor on 'Freedom Day'

Levi Solomon, general manager of Fetch, Norwich was getting ready to welcome back club-goers.

Levi Solomon, general manager of Fetch, Norwich was getting ready to welcome back club-goers. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Norwich party-goers described the countdown to Freedom Day “like New Year’s Eve”, as the lifting of coronavirus restrictions has seen people back on the dance floor. 

Nightclubs and bars wouldn’t usually be expecting a busy Monday night, but as July 19 brought the lifting of all restrictions, for many, it could be a night to remember.

The Behan family from Ireland enjoyed a drink at the Woolpack in Norwich on Freedom Day.

The Behan family from Ireland enjoyed a drink at the Woolpack in Norwich on Freedom Day. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

It has been more than a year since drinkers have been able to enjoy a “proper” club night. 

But at Gonzo’s Tea Room on Sunday, July 18, at around 11.59pm they counted down the seconds until the lights could go off, the music turned up and people up out of their seats. 

At the unofficial event, owner Mike Baxter and his brother Brad Baxter, said it was an emotional night for all.

Mike and Brad Baxter from Gonzo’s in Norwich

Mike and Brad Baxter from Gonzo’s in Norwich who invited people to join them on the dance floor at midnight when restrictions were lifted. - Credit: Neil Didsbury


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“We quietly opened last night," he said. "We didn’t want to make a big deal or have a major event but at the same time, like everyone else, we have been waiting to see the world slowly come back to normal.  

“About 11pm we started telling customers in the building that there may be an opportunity to have a little dance and we opened it at midnight.  

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“As it came to it, we thought it would be a silly idea to have a count down like it was New Year's Eve.  

“At midnight, the lights went off, the music turned off and it was really good. People were getting emotional on the dance floor.” 

A group of friends gathered at Gonzo’s in Norwich on Freedom Day as Covid restrictions were lifted.

A group of friends gathered at Gonzo’s in Norwich on Freedom Day as Covid restrictions were lifted. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Gonzo’s bar tender, Levi McNeill, was among the small crowd dancing until the early hours of the morning.  

The 29-year-old said: “You know what it’s like when it’s the build-up to New Year’s Eve, that’s how it felt. I was a bit nervous at first because I haven’t been clubbing for like a year and a half.  

“But it was really good to be with all of my friends. Everyone was vibing all night.” 

 Isaac Evans moved to Norwich two weeks ago and was looking forward to partying at Gonzo’s.

Isaac Evans moved to Norwich two weeks ago and was looking forward to partying at Gonzo’s. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Isaac Evans, 23, was also there on Sunday night and could be seen back at Gonzo’s on Monday evening - which will be open again until 3am.

He added: “I was here until 3am this morning and back again today. 

“It’s really nice seeing everyone happy and in a good mood. The dancing is the best part about it. Gonzo’s is the place to be.” 

This comes after Boris Johnson announced, on Monday evening, that from the end of September you must be double jabbed to gain entry into nights clubs. 

Mr Baxter said: “Personally, I think it is the responsible thing to do. We are perfectly happy with that. We just want the safest environment for our customers and nobody wants to close again. People want to work and people want to have fun.” 

Levi Solomon, general manager of Fetch, Norwich was getting ready to welcome back club-goers.

Levi Solomon, general manager of Fetch, Norwich was getting ready to welcome back club-goers. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Fetch nightclub on Prince of Wales Road was holding a beach party themed event on Monday to celebrate Freedom Day.  

Levi Solomon, general manager, said: “I have been counting down the days. Everyone has been so excited to dance and have a bit of fun. There has been a lot of pressure on all of us in the industry.  

“Tonight, is a celebration for us as well, being back doing what we enjoy – running a night club."

Andre Smith is the owner of a new nightclub on Prince of Wales called Can ‘N’ Cocktails.  

Mr Smith said he was expecting it to be “like a bank holiday”. 

Alice Watts, 21 and Charlie Bunting, 21 both from Dereham came to Norwich for a night out on Freedom Day.

Alice Watts, 21 and Charlie Bunting, 21 both from Dereham came to Norwich for a night out on Freedom Day. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

But as they prepared for a busy night, the announcement of double vaccines to get in clubs was not welcomed. 

“It’s madness,” he said. “The clubs were the first thing to shut, the last thing to open and within 17 hours the government are already coming out with plans to force people to have vaccinations. 

“It removes a lot of the freedom of choice. We are a nightclub; we are not an authoritarian body. 

“I don’t think it’s the right decision and I think its callous to do this while some businesses aren’t even back open from an 18-month forced enclosure.” 

Cousins Bethany Martin, 18 and Ellie Scott, 19 met up at The Bell Inn in Norwich on Freedom Day as restrictions were lifted.

Cousins Bethany Martin, 18 and Ellie Scott, 19 met up at The Bell Inn in Norwich on Freedom Day as restrictions were lifted. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Friends enjoying a get together at the Woolpack Inn, Norwich on ‘Freedom Day’.

Friends enjoying a get together at the Woolpack Inn, Norwich on ‘Freedom Day’. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

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