The Drive-In Dance Club And The Future Of Social Gatherings

The Drive-In Future Of Social Gatherings

There are some experiences that seem impossible in light of the social distancing rules emerging in the post-lockdown period. Yes, you can modify dining out and going to the movies, but it would seem that crowded concerts and dance clubs are likely out of the question until a coronavirus vaccine emerges.

But, as the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

The German nightclub Index, located in the small town of Schuttorf near the Dutch border, is bravely venturing forth to offer consumers an entirely new way to hit the clubs on Saturday nights: by driving in and staying in your car.

“This feels like Saturday again! But without the drinking. Or the dancing,” said Ronan Zwaagstra, a 19-year-old student who attended a concert at a parking lot adjacent to the club while sitting in his hatchback.

What does one do at a dance club when there’s no dancing? A lot of in-car “wiggling,” according to the report – and some flirting with patrons in other cars.

Vehicles park close enough together for people to interact, although staff members wander the spaces in between to make sure patrons are maintaining social distancing. Flirting takes place by people writing their cell phone numbers on balloons and holding them up to people in nearby cars.

Jenny Kollak, 24, a bank manager attending the drive-in club, said that when they find someone they like, “we scream at them. They scream at us. Then you meet them in the [bathrooms].”

That’s the only place where meetings are possible, since the club’s interior is otherwise closed. To use the bathrooms, guests must wear masks to satisfy German law.

But despite rules that keep everyone apart, the drive-in disco was a fairly large draw one recent night, with more than 100 cars coming to the club to hang out, hear the concert and dance behind the wheel. Admittance is $35 per car, plus $15 for every passenger other than the driver. Patrons bring their own booze.

Club owner Holger Bosch is extremely pleased with the outcome. “My wife loves my new job [because] now I’m home at 1 a.m., not 8 a.m.,” said Bosch, who’s considered a visionary because he built the massive dance club in a small town off the beaten path to offer all-night “raves.”

Will the drive-in dance party be the wave of the future? Well, in the era of social distancing, the car door has become a particularly favored form of PPE for consumers looking to get back out into the world safely.

While gathering in cars isn’t a perfect replacement for being in the room together, people are increasingly finding it to be an acceptable substitute. Apart from the re-emergence of drive-in restaurants and movies, more exotic drive-in applications have become increasingly common. For example, drive-in churches have been making a comeback after a brief surge of popularity in the 1950s.

Artists like rapper Dopebwoy, who brought 100 cars to the Index club this weekend for the show, are readying themselves to do more of these kinds of events going forward. “There will be a lot of these car shows,” Dopebwoy, whose real name is Jordan Jacott, told the Times. “We better get used to it.”

But for some consumers, it will be a harder sell. Denise Schut, a 27-year-old daycare worker who gave car-clubbing a chance this weekend, mostly found it lacking. She said the stage was hard to see, and sitting still in a car for several hours wasn’t hugely comfortable.

”My legs are hurting. And my back,” Schut said, noting that she’s unlikely to return a second time.

But for other patrons, getting at least a small taste of club culture was worth it. Because they’re looking to get the feeling of Saturday night back again – even if they have to do so from their cars.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.