Before the pandemic arrived in Lebanon, Beirut’s nightlife pulsed with global renown. Then came the government-mandated lockdowns. Like in other cities, Lebanon’s hospitality industry took a major hit as non-essential businesses were shuttered. But the absence of state-sponsored assistance for those left jobless would be more glaring, further straining an already dire economic situation prior to the pandemic. It is estimated that 25,000 workers in Lebanon’s hospitality sector have lost their jobs since September 2019.
Lebanese people are relying on citizen-led activism to support one another in this age of isolation—and that includes their cherished, dynamic music venues, bars, and dance clubs. The team behind Überhaus and The Gärten has organized a virtual music festival called Electronic Labor Day, which is accessible worldwide, to fundraise for unemployed members of Lebanon’s nightlife community. Held through Lebanon’s national Labor Day holiday weekend, the event will feature 72 hours of sets from over 150 DJs. The marathon festival just opened its doors today (International Workers Day) and is being promoted with its campaign hashtags #SaveTheScene and #WeGotYourBack. Nearly 20 other Beirut clubs, record labels, and nightlife promoters have committed to participate in some way.
No matter what happens, we’ve got their backs
Überhaus founder Nemer Saliba says the community is “counting on us and we would like to tell them that no matter what happens, we’ve got their backs.” Access to all five DJ “rooms” is free, with links to make financial donations appearing throughout the Überhaus website. The livestream will also be broadcast on platforms Dance Television and Twitch.
An independent committee was formed to ensure a responsible, equal distribution of donations. There will be three representatives from Beirut nightclubs and a board member of the national hospitality syndicate that will act as the committee’s treasurer. Funds will go to the most vulnerable non-managerial employees of music venues across Lebanon—servers, cleaning crew, bartenders, and runners—who must apply via a staff form to have their employment status verified.
“While we understand that this initiative is not a holistic solution to an ever-expanding crisis, we believe it is essential to provide much needed support whenever we can,” the organizers said in a statement. “The future is sure to be uncertain. Taking one step at a time, the most we can do is plan a few weeks ahead, and plan to make them count.”
Electronic Labor Day is on today through midnight 3 May (local Beirut time). Donations can be made in Lebanese Pounds or US dollars.
Images courtesy of The Gärten