Late bars and nightclubs could stay open until 6am under new legislation — but is Ireland ready for it?
The long-awaited reform of antiquated licensing laws have been in the works for over three years now, and the new bill is set to be published in the coming weeks.
Ireland’s hospitality sector, nightlife culture and creative communities were some of the worst affected by the pandemic, and this incoming legislation could represent an uptick for these industries.
Under current laws, late bars and nightclubs have a 2.30am cut-off point providing they have a Special Exemption Order, which costs €410 per night. The opening hours of standard pubs — closing by 11.30pm on weeknights, 12.30am on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11pm on Sundays — will remain unchanged.
Streamlining the legislation to align with 21st century Ireland, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said, “the whole idea really is to move away from the existing licensing laws” and build up Irish nightlife culture to be on a par with that of other European cities.
While it’s hoped that the new laws will take effect within the year, there are some glaringly obvious infrastructure issues that need to be addressed before we can throw on our glad rags and head for the dance floor.
With Galway’s last remaining nightclub being turned into a hotel and the doors of many fine Dublin cultural spaces being forced to shut, can a late night economy thrive if we don’t have the venues? A 6am closing time may spread out the severity of the end of night stampede to the taxi rank, transport will be a prime concern when these laws come into effect.
With taxi shortages in Dublin city, overpriced nighttime public transport and extremely poor rural Ireland transport links, how will we get home safely in the small hours of the morning? Likewise, the current incident level of spiking and sexual assaults in late night settings will require vastly improved safety protocols in these venues so their patrons can finally feel safe.
From providing a higher rate than minimum wage to attract late night staff to lowering drink prices so that people will be capable of affording a night on the tiles, there’s clearly a lot to be ironed out before Ireland can become the new Berlin.