Bars and nightclubs in Vilnius are still allowed to stay open all night after Vilnius Night Alliance successfully argued that licensed, controlled environments can be safer than the private, uncontrolled and sometimes illegal spaces where people gather if bars and nightclubs are forced to close.

With virus statistics increasing and varying wildly between cities, the national-level government recently devolved policy to municipalities, recommending a curfew for nightlife in many cities including the capital, Vilnius. The Director of the Vilnius Department of the National Public Health Centre declared that it was time for the municipality to step in and declare a curfew, because “we can’t afford the luxury” of keeping nightlife open. It was against this background that negotiations began between the City Administration, the Bars and Cafes Association, the Hotels and Restaurants Association and Vilnius Night Alliance.


We provided the City with a list of sensible and practical safety rules and asked for more enforcement to crack down on the places that are currently operating dangerously. After a meeting of all stakeholders on Friday, the final list of rules was agreed and the City prepared a co-operation agreement for all nightlife venues and bars to sign voluntarily. The City Administration also warned that there would be strict enforcement against those who refused to sign the agreement, threatening heavy fines and closure for serious offenders.

We also designed a door sticker and made a map for all the venues that join the scheme:

Vilnius rules

  • 1m distancing in the queue and by the bar
  • Masks at all times in all places, except while sitting at a table, standing at the bar or smoking outside.
  • Drinks only by the bar or at a table, drinks not allowed on the dancefloor.
  • Dancing area should be separated from the drinking area.
  • Compulsory hand disinfection at the door, at the bar and in the toilets.
  • One-in-one-out when the venue is half-full.
  • Registration of all visitors, phone number stored 21 days, data handed to the Public Health Centre on request if a case is confirmed.
  • Customers warned only once about violations, then ejected from the premises not to return until at least the next day.
  • Daily staff healthcheck and signed journal.
  • Cleaning and disinfection compulsory.
  • Virus testing compulsory according to Public Health Centre rules.
  • Rules posters in visible places by the door, in corridors and in toilets.
  • Extra training for all staff.


  • There is no strict definition of “half-full” but less than 50% of 2019 capacity is considered safe. This point was left flexible because there is no fair way of calculating exactly how many people would be “safe” in every venue. Calculations based on floorspace are disproportionally bad for smaller venues, and anyway if you want to make it easy to maintain distancing you have to reduce to 50% or less anyway, so precisely defining this point becomes superfluous. You can’t easily count the number of people in a venue to enforce this rule, so it was decided to just leave it to common sense, each venue decides individually. It’s pretty obvious when you look at a dancefloor and see it’s rammed full, you know you let too many people in and you are increasing your risk of getting a fine.
  • There is no requirement to measure temperature because the Public Health Centre said in our cold climate this idea doesn’t work, people entering the venue never have hot skin. Measuring accurately is too difficult, so this point was deleted.
  • The Public Health Centre are providing assistance with covid-testing workers, this is subject to a further negotiation.

Effect so far

It’s early days, in fact it’s the first day. Already venues are signing up to the program and getting on board the visitor registration system. It seems to be sending a clear message to venues that there will be checks. Initial signs are that the carrot and the stick are both working. The media have been very interested and the information is reaching bar owners and the public.

Predictions for the future

Unfortunately it’s still unknown what the national government will do, and there’s national elections on Sunday. So the situation is still wide open and it’s possible that this week is the first and last week of this project, next week the whole country could be shut down. However, the media coverage is helping to improve the image of our sector and teach people the importance of separating responsible bars from reckless bars. We are not all the same in this industry and it is unfair to close the whole sector just because some businessmen in the sector are acting irresponsibly. Also we are constantly broadcasting the fact that if we are closed, our customers will go and party in much less safe spaces with no safety rules at all. This message is gradually being understood.

Safe your city

If you would like more information and advice on implementing a similar scheme in your city, please write to us or call our Chair Mark Adam Harold +37065203303

We will be happy to help you find out the pros and cons of the Vilnius model!