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Legislation allowing nightclubs stay open later will be ready this year, says Varadkar

The Tánaiste says Ireland’s nightlife will match other European cities.

Varadark has said tourists that come to Irish cities, who have experienced the night life in other European cities abroad, say that Irish nightlife “can be disappointing”.
Varadark has said tourists that come to Irish cities, who have experienced the night life in other European cities abroad, say that Irish nightlife “can be disappointing”.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

NIGHTCLUBS ARE TO be given the green light this year to remain open into the early hours of the morning as part of a major overhaul of the country’s licensing laws.

Speaking to reporters at the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he was speaking to the Justice Minister Helen McEntee last night about nightclubs getting new licences.

“She thinks we can get the legislation done this year… Like it won’t be a matter of months, but it can be done this year,” he confirmed. 

Varadkar said “the whole idea really is to move away from the existing licensing laws”, which he described as “kind of a fiction” as nightclubs have to apply for an exemption order to be able to open later than pubs.

New system 

The new system will give nightclubs their own licences. 

“There might be huge numbers of them but it does mean there would be a certain number of proper nightclub licenses,” he said.

The ambition is that Ireland will have a nightlife “that is as good as anything” places like Lisbon, Berlin and London have to offer, said Varadkar.

The idea of later opening hours for nightclubs was first floated by Varadkar back in 2019, when he told The Journal that he believed the laws needed to be reformed and brought more in line with other cities in Europe. 

Varadkar said 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”. 

“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 there are some concerns that extending opening hours could lead to anti-social behaviour, Varadkar, who was Taoiseach at the time in 2019, said he didn’t believe it would increase bad behaviour.

“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,” he added. 

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Last year, the justice minister began work on modernising the licensing laws, stating “our pubs, restaurants and nightclubs have experienced huge challenges as we continue to grapple with Covid and the devastating effect it has had on our society and economy”. 

McEntee has said she is committed to enacting alcohol licensing laws “that reflect the changing expectations and lifestyles of 21st century Ireland”. 

The Tánasite’s comments on the nightclub licence plans come as the Government launches a pilot support scheme for artists that will see 2,000 eligible participants chosen at random to receive €325 per week. 

Speaking at the launch today, Varadkar paid tribute to musicians, poets and artists who gave comfort to people during the “difficult days of lockdown”.

We listened to music, read books, watched films and performances online, he said, adding “that engagement with the arts helped us to get through some dark days”. 

“I’ll never forget watching Normal People during that first lockdown, and even those nights in every Friday night watching the Late Late Show, which is something I never did before and don’t have to do again,” he said, sparking laughter among the crowd today.

The Tánaiste said it was “definitely a lifeline”, adding that “it was very good”. 

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