Nightclub taxi drives away the blues in lockdown Greece

THESSALONIKI, Greece (Reuters) - Greek taxi driver Konstantinos Bekio is doing his bit to lift his passengers’ spirits amid the gloom of coronavirus lockdown, turning his cab into a nightclub complete with strobe lights and music.

“I saw that people were always stressed, sad, everyone was in a bad mood,” he said as he drove through the nighttime streets of Thessaloniki in northern Greece where he began the service during the first coronavirus lockdown in March.

“I started to put on music - to turn up the volume, and I saw people enjoyed it, they were having fun, they were having a good time, even if it was a short route, they would get out happy. That is how we started the private club taxi.”

Although Greece has not suffered as badly as many other European countries from COVID-19, its nightlife culture has taken a hit. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs have been shut since November and no-one is sure when they will reopen.

While a taxi ride in a disco may not be everyone’s idea of a good night out, Bekios, whose 11-year-old son helped with the decoration, just wants people to have a good time. He takes requests from a vast playlist built up over eight years driving his cab but charges no extra for the experience.

“It improves your mood in the first five minutes,” said 24-year-old Ioanna Kargiannidou, a regular customer.

“The situation is very difficult and stressful for everyone, our mood is low,” she said. “So this is a good solution to escape our daily routine.”

Editing by James Mackenzie and Janet Lawrence