1. Nightclub Licensing: The Current Situation
As it stands, nightclubs in Ireland can open until between 1.30 and 3am, depending on the location. They are permitted to open to 1am on Sundays.
Nightclubs must apply for and receive a special exemption order (SEO) for each night when they want to operate later than the standard pub opening hours.
Pubs and late bars may also apply for these SEOs.
To obtain a monthly allocation of SEOs, a nightclub owner must go to the district court and make an application.
The price of obtaining an SEO (per night) is €410, irrespective of the venue’s capacity. This was increased in 2008 from €220 after an amendment to the Intoxicating Liquor Act.
Nightclubs must apply for SEOs on an ad hoc basis because there is no legislation that pertains specifically to the opening hours of these venues.
Nightclubs using an SEO must shut their bar 30 minutes before closing time. This 30-minute period is drinking up time, during which it is illegal to provide entertainment, i.e. music.
By closing bars and nightclubs at the same time, patrons converge on the streets at the same time. This puts a strain on gardai, emergency services and late night transport services.
2. Why Should This Situation Change?
The application process for SEOs is expensive and time-consuming for the applicant and court.
Nightclubs should be allowed to open later – this would ensure that they are not in direct competition with late bars and can operate as viable businesses. Sunday is a popular night for many people to socialise – Sunday opening hours should be the same as any other night.
Like any industry, relevant up-to-date legislation is needed to reflect consumer demand for entertainment and to ensure nightclubs are well-regulated, viable businesses.
Later opening hours would lead to more jobs in the nightclub industry, and create indirect employment in the late night services industry.
Opening times should not vary according to location and should be consistent throughout the country.
Banning entertainment at the end of a night serves no purpose. Providing entertainment until actual closing time, is common place throughout the world.
Late bars and nightclubs open until the same time: if sequential closing was introduced, there would be fewer patrons on the streets at the same time, resulting in a reduction in public order offences.
The Garda B District in Dublin South Central has Ireland’s largest density of licensed premises and nightclubs. In 2006 an increased number of nightclubs in B District availed of theatre licences to open until 4am each night, and was the only district in the country to use sequential closing.
CSO figures recorded a 4.8% net drop in public order prosecutions from 2005 to 2008 in District B, while the rest of Ireland outside of Dublin recorded a net increase of 25%. Despite this, in August 2008, the Intoxicating Liquor Act removed this use of sequential closing in B District.
Other European cities market their vibrant nightlife to attract tourists. Berlin’s tourism board actively celebrates the city’s music culture and range of nightclubs – a strong indication of nightlife’s value to the city’s popularity with foreign visitors. If nightclub opening hours were extended, Ireland would also become a more desirable tourist destination.
3. How Can The Situation Change?
Opening times should be extended beyond the current times, with nightclubs allowed to stay open after late bars have closed. The special curfew on Sunday opening times should be removed.
Provision to provide entertainment until a nightclub’s closing time should be made.
An annual nightclub licence should be introduced, subject to each applicant meeting the necessary criteria.
Nightclubs should be allowed more flexibility of opening hours, according to consumer demand. We believe that nightclub culture does not solely revolve around the sale and consumption of alcohol, rather it also provides an outlet for people to socialise and enjoy music. Therefore, from our perspective, alcohol does not need to be on sale for the entire duration of a nightclub’s opening hours.
The practise of removing large groups of people from nightclubs at once needs to end. Extended times would see patrons leave at a time of their own choosing. In turn, this would mean a more easily manageable night for nightclub staff, security, emergency services and law enforcement authorities.