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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: -1°C
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Button Factory

Nightclubs are back tonight – here's how the government's pilot event will work

Social distancing won’t be required at the event but a vaccine pass and a negative antigen test will be needed to get in.

450 PEOPLE WILL attend a pilot event at Dublin’s Button Factory tonight, as a nightclub gets to open its doors for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic reached Ireland.

The event will see popular acts such as Sunil Sharp, DART and Sim Simma leading the line-up with two rooms of music running from 8:30pm until 12:30am.

Tickets – which were priced at €22.23 – sold out and the organisers of the event say they were snapped up “within seconds” of going on sale. 

So, how will it work?

The Temple Bar venue will operate at 60% of its total capacity for the trial run and no social distancing restrictions will be in place. ”It will be like a glimpse back to 19 months ago,” explains one of the organisers, Will Rolfe.

Doors open at 8pm and people will be required to wear a mask when queueing to get into the event and when leaving the venue.

Along with a ticket, those attending the gig will need their Digital Covid Certificate and will have to test negative on a rapid antigen test.

In a bid to speed up the entry process, the organisers have been running antigen testing for attendees at Filmbase in Temple Bar since midday today.

It’s anticipated that most people will get tested prior to their arrival this evening, so the organisers are not expecting any significant delays.

It’s currently unclear whether antigen testing will be required when nightclubs reopen on 22 October, however, Rolfe noted that, because tonight’s event is a trial run, it makes sense to test as many scenarios as possible to assess their feasibility.

The gig is hosted by Hidden Agenda and District 8 in consultation with nightlife campaign group Give us the Night.


Rolfe says the event is a welcome sign that the nightlife industry may finally be able to return following a very challenging 19 months.

“It’s great to see everyone back working, it’s people’s livelihoods, it’s what they enjoy doing and being a part of. But we’re only a small group of people who are working on the show and the wider industry really needs to get to a place of being reopened,” he said.

The promoter says many in the industry still have reservations about the 22 October return because previous reopenings have been delayed.

“For a lot of the industry it’s a situation of hesitation, until that (reopening) happens, which has been the same throughout Covid, nobody knows what’s going to happen next,” Rolfe said.

These things can move and change. But, I think, there is a lot of hope. It does feel real. It feels like we’re within touching distance. But you wouldn’t want to get carried away until we’re fully back.

Minister for the Arts, Catherine Martin, said the event was an “important step as we prepare for a further reopening in October”.

“There are many challenges ahead for the live performance sector, particularly in a post Covid-19 context, and it is essential that we continue to learn from pilots such as this one. This pilot is important for this industry to help it plan for a safe full reopening on 22 October, subject to the public health situation,” Martin said.

It is hoped that the event will help pilot the logistics of event ticketing, venue admittance, the impact of antigen testing and ventilation to ensure a safe and financially sustainable reopening of the nightclub sector.

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