Give Us The Night is an independent volunteer group of professionals operating within the night-time industry, campaigning for positive changes to nightlife in Ireland, with particular regard to music venues.

We endeavour to highlight the contribution of the night-time industry to culture, community and the economy in Ireland, and to raise the quality of nightlife to international standards.

Our ongoing aim is to create debate and discussion about the licensing laws in Ireland, with a view to influencing legislative changes that lead to a more vibrant and profitable night-time industry. We encourage the public to read our mandate and join our mailing list.


Give Us The Night Team


To support, nurture and reframe the conversation around nightlife and the night-time economy in Ireland. 

To highlight the economic value and societal benefits of a diverse and vibrant Irish night-time industry.

To contribute to the creation of jobs and sustainable indigenous businesses within the night-time industry, and to broaden employment opportunities for those operating in the creative arts. 

To ensure that Ireland adopts a more progressive European approach to nightlife, that reflects the wide range of lifestyles and working hours here.

  • The Night-time Economy

Countries around the world are experiencing the benefits of a healthy night-time economy. The commonly recognised timeframe of activity in this sector is 6pm – 6am. This involves music venues, bars, restaurants, spectator sporting events, cinemas, theatres, shops, transport companies, and various other forms of hospitality. Our nearest neighbour, the UK, values its night-time economy at £66 billion per year. It is impossible however, to measure the night-time economy’s worth in Ireland, given the heavy restrictions placed on night-time businesses.

To achieve growth in the night-time industry, a complete rethink of our licensing laws and structure around them needs to take place.

There is a lack of clarity running through the licensing system in Ireland, with regulations that can vastly differ from county to county. Unlike our European counterparts, Ireland lacks a specific set of decision-makers in relation to night-time events and licensing, with limited initiatives in place to enhance the night-time economy.

As a starting point, Give Us The Night (GUTN) believe that a night-time commission/advisory group should be established in each major city as soon as possible. These groups can provide expert knowledge as well as recommendations on the local night-time economy, based on a range of research and consumer feedback.

  • Night Mayor / Licensing

GUTN welcome the establishment of a Night Mayor (Maor Oíche) in each major city. A Night Mayor (or equivalent individual such as ‘Night Czar’ or ‘Night-Time Economy Advisor’) has been established in cities across the world including London, Manchester, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and New York to great effect.

A Night Mayor can act as a liaison between stakeholders in the night-time industry. The Night Mayor would work alongside the Lord Mayor of that city, the city council, An Garda Síochána, venue operators, and event programmers.

GUTN also believe that the formation of licensing boards within city and county councils would aid the work of the Night Mayor, or alternatively work as stand-alone groups in areas where no Night Mayor exists. Councils could establish these groups to provide more time, fairness and transparency to licensing application decisions. This would also devolve more power to local authorities, to make decisions related to their own specific night-time economy.

There could also be a fresh approach to granting occasional licences for one-off music and cultural events of all sizes. With a growing festival market, we feel that some of these events could provide an opportunity to test extended opening hours in suitable areas on a pilot scheme basis.

In 2005, when the UK modernised their licensing system, it was the Department of Culture, Media and Sport that spearheaded the change. More power and responsibility could be designated to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in Ireland, who can influence positive change and growth for the night-time industry.

  • Abolition of Special Exemption Orders 

The Special Exemption Order (SEO) system for late bars and nightclubs has failed, with a current drop in exchequer revenue of roughly €5 million per annum since its price increase in 2008. This increase, from €220 to €410 per night, has also led to widespread venue closures and job losses in the last decade.

90,691 SEOs were granted nationally in 2007, while the state estimates that 37,500 were granted in 2017. 

Venues availing of annual dance licences also decreased, from 1,635 nationwide (2007) to 930 nationwide (2013). Annual dance licence figures beyond 2013 have not been published, but the current figure is thought to have dropped considerably since 2013. 

A late-night venue in Ireland that would choose to open 6 days a week would pay approximately €128,000 per year (plus legal fees for each monthly court application) on SEOs. This is in addition to rates, rent, insurance, running costs, wages etc. A venue in the UK will pay around £2,000 per year in late licence fees, with more hours of trading each night possible.

Through the combination of restricted opening hours and the large financial outlay required for SEOs, operators have struggled to modernise their venues and to improve production standards, which has impacted on the experience for patrons. 

We propose that the SEO system is scrapped entirely. It is an outdated system (operated only in Ireland) that stifles growth in the industry, wastes court time and makes no distinction between late bars and music venues. 

We suggest that late bars and music venues apply for separate specific annual licences, in place of monthly SEOs.

An affordable annual licence fee based on floor space and overall turnover could replace SEO fees. This would encourage music venues to open more nights per week, which will create more jobs in the industry.

To incentivise new venues opening, we also propose that start-up businesses be exempt from the first year of their annual licence fee. 

GUTN believe it is time to clearly identify the differences between public bars and purpose-built music venues, and to legislate accordingly.

To achieve this, we recommend the introduction of a designated ‘night venue’ classification in planning and licensing law in Ireland. This classification should cover fire, safety, operating times, egress, impact on locality and cultural value to the city.

Criteria for a successful application as a night venue could include:
– Suitability of location
– Quality of programming
– Facilities for performance
– Sufficient ratio of dancing area to standing area
– Sound system specifications
– Soundproofing (where necessary)
– Patron safety strategy
– Commitment to staff excellence (employer to provide ongoing upskill training)
– Preparation of a Venue Management Plan in agreement with local Gardaí, fire officer and council

A night venue licence would be applied for on an annual basis.

In conjunction with the introduction of a ‘night venue’ classification, we feel sequential closing across the night-time industry should be introduced to allow all stakeholders such as public bars, restaurants, late bars, and night venues to work in tandem.

Closing at graduated times would encourage a safe and pleasant experience for all, putting less strain on Gardaí, emergency services and late night transport services.

This system would enable many night-time businesses to operate according to their own specific customer demand, reaching a full potential of earnings in the process.

Much like the European model for creative spaces, we envisage that some night venues could be also used as multi-purpose spaces for daytime activities and events. These creative and cultural spaces can support emerging artists and projects, providing employment and training across a range of artistic disciplines. To develop and promote the creative arts in Ireland, we believe that the state should make more of these spaces available.

GUTN advocate a standard closing time of up to 6am for night venues. Pending approval, this closing time would be at the discretion of night venue operators. Venues should also have the opportunity to apply for additional operating hours if further conditions and local approval are met.

To extend the times of operations for the night-time industry will involve various planning considerations.

We believe that planning authorities should adopt the ‘Agent of Change’ principle when making planning application decisions. This would require developers to be responsible for the local impact of erecting new residential buildings, e.g. the developer would pay for the soundproofing of existing nearby venues, should sound levels be a disturbance to new residents.

Agent of Change can help to create a harmonious relationship between venues and local residents, and to prevent the risk of business closures. By placing more responsibility with developers who make changes to local areas, where venues have operated for many years already, this can help to solve one of the most emotive issues relating to nightlife.

The Agent of Change principle was recently added into UK planning law. This policy, that protects both music venues and neighbours, should also be established in Ireland.

Managing activity on the streets at night may require a zoning system in certain areas. Local authorities could implement a more strategic zoning plan for nightlife (from low-intensity to high-intensity), with policing concentrated on these areas at graduated times through the night.

To assist Gardaí and emergency services, GUTN propose an increased use of volunteer groups to provide on-street support to vulnerable patrons, and to quell potentially volatile situations. Established by the LGBT Foundation in Manchester, Village Angels is one such group that helps with the well-being of people out at night. Street Pastors is another successful UK initiative that improves safety on the streets, with uniformed teams now active in Cork and Dublin.

Basing nightlife on the outskirts of city centres should also be explored. GUTN welcome any initiative that creates new districts dedicated to nightlife, at an appropriate distance from residential dwellings. The suitability of these areas has been highlighted in Amsterdam, where 24-hour licences have been granted only to venues outside of the city centre.

Improved public transport at night would be of benefit to many, and we are encouraged by the recent commencement of a 24-hour bus service in parts of Cork, as well as plans for a 24-hour service in Dublin. Quick and orderly crowd dispersion from urban centres, will help to eliminate potential noise or nuisance from patrons who begin walking home due to insufficient public transport. Round-the-clock availability of public transport will also be beneficial to staff who work in the night-time industry.

GUTN believe that the creative community has a part to play in the ongoing changes to the built environment. We propose a collaborative approach between developers, councillors and local communities. For example, the repurposing of derelict or unused buildings to creative spaces would have a positive impact on an area’s economy and community as a whole.

Music venues are vital for the development and employment of singers, bands, musicians, DJs and other professionals in the industry. A dynamic approach towards the night-time economy can help to preserve venues as well making new venues financially viable to open.

We believe that a greater range of activities and events should take place at night, throughout the year. Increasing the use of our museums, theatres, galleries and other cultural institutions will add more variety and vibrancy to nightlife.

This can help Ireland on a global level as we continue to build our tourism potential, and attract high-quality international talent to work here. It will also give greater opportunity to home-grown talent, who may otherwise choose to move abroad in search of better work and lifestyle opportunities.

These changes will help create innovation in the night-time industry, increase the diversity of nightlife and enrich culture in Ireland.

How to Help

Please read our mandate and sign up to mailing list.

Follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

Download logo, poster, web banner and use wherever suitable.

With canvassing for the general election underway, there is now an opportunity for you to speak directly to politicians about issues important to the Give Us The Night campaign, including our suggestions to modernise Irish nightlife.

Please ask them any or all of the following questions:

  • How would you improve the Irish night-time economy?
  • Does the growing lack of venues and creative spaces concern you? 
  • Does your party have a particular policy regarding the night-time economy?
  • Do our towns and cities need a better level of management and cultural strategy at night?
  • If elected, will you support licensing reform in relation to night-time events and entertainment?
  • If in power, will you ensure that the issues highlighted by Give Us The Night are addressed in the next Programme for Government?

Social media will play a key role in communicating our message and engaging with candidates during this election campaign. With this in mind, please use #giveusthenight in any related posts.


  Design: Emma Conway

Contact Us

Phone: +353857128165
Email: info@giveusthenight.com


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