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Consultation to take place on whether Ireland's nightclub opening hours should be updated

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is “very keen” to open up a consultation with stakeholders.

Image: Shutterstock/Ievgenii Meyer

A CONSULTATION ON IRELAND’S pub and nightclub opening hours is to take place, an Oireachtas committee has heard today.

The move comes after stakeholders in the nightlife industry called for licensing laws to be modernised and brought more in line with other EU countries.

Speaking to the Oireachtas Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Assistant Secretary and Head of Civil Legislation at the Department of Justice, Martina Colville said Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is “very keen” to have open up a consultation with stakeholders.

While stating that he is in principle in favour of enhancements to current arrangements, he does not have immediate plans to amend the law in this area.

However, the committee was told an open consultation about the laws “would be a reasonable approach”. 

The committee was told that any such changes to the law would require proper consultation with relevant stakeholders, including representative bodies, groups representing local residents, the local authorities and the Garda Síochána.

“The minister said that he is mindful that any change would need to be organised and
managed in a manner that will not cause undue inconvenience or nuisance to local
residents nor create an undue risk to public order. Moreover, any proposed changes
would also need to have regard to the preservation of a fair competitive environment
for competing businesses,” said the Colville. 

‘Restrictive laws’

Representatives of venues and festivals told members today that businesses were closing because of the restrictive laws. 

The committee was told today that there are no specific provisions for the operation of nightclubs, late bars or other late-night entertainment outlets under the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2018.

This means that in the absence of a specific nightclub licence or nightclub permit, nightclubs and late bars operate on the basis of the “special exemption order” mechanism, in which they have to apply with specific reasons as to why they can stay open longer. 

James Finan of Electric Garden and Theatre in Galway said the opening hours are “limiting” and not comparable to any other modern European city.

Sinn Féin’s Fintan Warfield called for the licensing laws to be updated, stating that people who want another drink past 3am are going to casinos. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, the chair of the committee Donnchadh O’Laoghaire called today’s meeting “worthwhile”.

“We want our cities to be interesting, diverse places to live, and the night-time economy and nightlife culture is a significant part of that to many many people. The engagement we got from the groups representing artists and performers and people who manage spaces, clearly illustrated the sense of frustration that is out there at the restrictions on licensing and what they felt was a reducing offering in options to socialise in and enjoy performances after a certain time.”

He said he particularly welcomed that the Department of Justice are seeking to do a consultation on licensing legislation in first quarter of the new year.

“This is very positive, and I hope that it will lead to the modernisation of antiquated, 1930s legislation which govern licensing and opening times, and even performances without alcohol. This needs to be examined carefully and I am glad the Department of Justice is looking at this.”

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