Tuesday 19 June 2018

#HaveYourSay: Do you back campaign to extend night club opening hours?

Kathy Armstrong

Extending the opening hours of nightclubs would help lead to a drop in public order offences and ensure that the end of nights out go more smoothly, a campaign group has claimed.

Give Us The Night, a representative body for DJs and nightclub owners, is calling for the licensing hours for nightclubs to be changed so that they can stay open longer.

GUTN's spokesman, DJ Sunil Sharpe, explained why he feels nightclubs should be allowed to operate later.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, he said: "We have the earliest closing times in Europe, it varies between 2am and 3am throughout the country.

"3am is pretty much the latest though and people have to be out of the club by 3am and the music will actually go off by 2.30.

"That's just one of our reasons, there's also a huge amount of potential in the nightlife industry if it was open beyond 3am.

"I don't expect everything to change drastically overnight but even an extra two or three hours would be hugely beneficial to a lot of people in the industry."

The Dublin-based DJ claimed the venues are struggling to stay open under the current legislation.

"It would be a graduated process, so bars would close at half 11 or 12 o'clock, late bars would close at 2.30, which is what they shut at now.

"This is the same time that nightclubs close at and this gives the clubs very little time to trade or make any money because a lot of people just stay in late bars and this has been very difficult for nightclubs since the early 2000s," he said.

GUTN has outlined in a statement on their website that nightclubs in Ireland can currently  stay open until between 1am and 3am, depending on their location, they must apply for a special exemption order (SEO) for each night they want to stay open for longer.

They said: "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."

Mr Sharpe said that if there were graduated closing hours then there would be less people leaving venues at once and this could lead to less trouble at the end of nights out.

He said: "If the nightclubs were open for an extra couple of hours, with a graduated time, it would bring a more relaxed end to the night.

"Of course even with this some people in nightclubs would want to go home at 2.30am, not everyone would want to stay out until half 4 or 5.

"The acts could continue until 4am or 5am and the bar could close earlier, I know from speaking to a lot of people that are club owners that they are in agreement and very open to this.

"We have experimented with times for for theatre licences and we have had later opening hours in Dublin and it did coincide with a drop in public order offences in the 2000s.

"So really we have tried this before and I think if you brought this in you would see an immediate, positive effect."

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