The smell of fresh paint will soon be overtaken by the honk of Jägerbombs and beer as the finishing touches are applied to nightclubs around the country ahead of Friday’s reopening.
Walking into Tramline nightclub in central Dublin the day before it's set to reopen after 590 days is a bit like watching Santa at work on Christmas Eve. The excitement is palpable but there’s still work to be done.
Owner Ian Redmond had not yet received the official reopening guidelines and is due to open his doors in just over 24 hours.
Builders are applying the final touches, slabs of pint bottles are scattered like confetti and hard-working staff check and double-check drink stockpiles, lighting and everything in between while avoiding fresh paint as they go.
Everything from fire extinguishers to ventilation, temperature-checking machines and social-distancing measures need to be ready for tomorrow.
“We’re ready to go after a long, long time. All the hard work is nearly done. We’ve 12 or so staff in here today working on various bits but it’s just finishing touches,” Mr Redmond says.
“We’ve overcome a lot of challenges in the nightclub industry. I would not be here if it wasn’t for my staff and their loyalty. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am to them,” he adds, as what sounds like an angle grinder shears metal in the background.
Leather booths carved into red-brick stonewalls wait in anticipation of bums for the first time in 19 months and varnish gleams from the tables as the underground venue nears what feels like a grand opening.
Tramline will host a jazz night earlier on Friday evening before turning the venue around quickly to accommodate a sold-out clubbing event on Friday night.
“We’ll be going from jazz club to disco in no time. We’re sold out and we’re delighted. I think it’s going to be really special to be part of this kind of Freedom Lite night. We have friends and family coming in to celebrate as we see this as a kind of victory after such a hard time,” Mr Redmond says.
An air extraction system will refresh the airflow of the nightclub regularly, as well as keeping revellers cool as they do their best Daniel O’Donnell impressions, and Mr Redmond says that anyone hesitant about returning to nightclubs will soon have their minds eased.
“Everyone that comes in here will have their certs checked, whether that’s a recovery cert or vaccination. We’ll have temperature monitors to check people and people will also need to use common sense. If you’re feeling unwell, don’t come out tomorrow. Stay home, there will be other nights,” Mr Redmond says.
“A lot of the people that go clubbing are 18- to 22-year-olds and many of that age group have never been in a nightclub before. We’re very conscious of that. I think back to my early clubbing days in Hollywood Nights in Stillorgan in the 1990s and the brilliant memories I have of those days. I want these kids coming in to have those same memories.”
While the businessman is thrilled to be opening his doors for the Bank Holiday weekend, he is mindful of a potential drop-off following the initial boom.
“We’ve seen it in the UK recently; nightclubs were stuffed at the start and then they experienced a drop-off afterwards so that is a worry but there are huge amount of money sitting in the Irish economy as people could not spend it, and demand is high for nights out so we’re hopeful,” Mr Redmond says.
He is thankful for Government supports that “kept the lights on” throughout the 19-month closure, pointing out that certain Governments are quite sympathetic to the flight of the industry.
“They have been really supportive. Sure the Tánaiste [Leo Varadkar] is a clubber himself. We’ve been recipients of many grants and support schemes that have allowed us to keep the lights on, to literally pay the electricity bills. There are many standing charges that have to be paid and those supports helped us when we weren’t making a penny,” Mr Redmond says.
He says the “most disappointing” aspect of reopening is the “price gouging” from insurance companies that nightclubs are facing.
“We have gone from minimal small claims and paying €38,000 per year as a result to having to pay €96,000 to open post-pandemic. It’s just absolutely disgusting. You hear there’s little appetite to insure the hospitality industry and soundbites like this from insurance companies and this is while the quantum of claims is reducing,” he says.
“We had to fight with them for a year to remove the public liability and employee liability from our bill despite there being no risk as we were completely close. I’m just disgusted with them.”
While nightclubs suffered due to lockdowns, Mr Redmond is acutely aware that a generation of talented young Irish musicians and performers have suffered just as much and he is keen to showcase some of this talent in his venue.
He says Irish musicians and the people in general have shown incredible resilience during the pandemic.
“I do feel sorry for the younger musicians and the many talented acts and bands that were just about to take off. We’d love to support any young Irish acts in any way we can. We want to showcase brilliant talent and we have an abundance of it in this country. If you want to play, you know where to find me.”