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Nightclub and pub opening hours are 'archaic' and need to be reformed, says Taoiseach

Leo Varadkar says tourists to Dublin often find Irish night life ‘disappointing’.

The Taoiseach said people often want to keep on dancing even after closing time.
The Taoiseach said people often want to keep on dancing even after closing time.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

IRELAND’S LICENSING LAWS need to be reformed and brought more in line with other cities in Europe, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Stakeholders in the nightlife industry have called for opening hours to be modernised, with some stating that there has been a rapid loss of venues and creative spaces in the capital in particular.

When asked if opening hours need to be updated, Varadkar said: 

“I think they do. I don’t necessarily think that we need the same licensing laws for everywhere. Where I live is different to town [Dublin], and rural areas are different again. So I think we do need to have a degree of local control around licensing laws.”

He added that some tourists that come to Irish cities, who have experienced the night life in other European cities abroad, say that Irish nightlife “can be disappointing” he said.

“In that premises shut down, so it’s very different in Madrid or Germany or other places, you know where places can stay open all night,” said Varadkar.

While acknowledging that some are concerns extended opening hours of pubs and nightclubs could lead to anti-social behaviour, Varadkar said he doesn’t believe it will.

“It doesn’t lead to public order offences, or increased levels of public order offenses,” he said. 

“It can actually be better in terms of public transport, because instead of everyone rushing out on the streets looking for a taxi at the same time,  it’s spread over a longer period of time.

“It’s an area that I think we need change in,” said Varadkar. 

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan is leading a group to look at the area of night-time culture in Ireland, said the Taoiseach. 

He explained that government is looking at local authorities possibly appointing “night mayors” to different localities to help encourage and reinvigorate Ireland’s nightlife. He added:

It shouldn’t be all about drink.

He said people often like to enjoy an evening out without drinking alcohol, but he pointed out there are few places to go.

“One of the weird things is that licensed premises, even if they have stopped serving alcohol, they can’t stay open. You know there may be people who still want to stay open and dance and so on and they’re not allowed to, once you stop serving drink you have to close down I think within half an hour or so, so they [the licensing laws] are really archaic.

“I think we can do better for people who enjoy the night in Ireland and tourists and it is something that we are very much working on,” said Varadkar.

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