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Nightclubs to reopen from Friday - but specific rules yet to be confirmed

Sectoral guidance is currently being developed for nightclubs.

Image: Shutterstock/Pressmaster

NIGHTCLUBS WILL BE allowed to reopen as planned this Friday, 22 October – but new advice specifically for the sector is being developed, and has yet to be released.

The announcement was made today by Taoiseach Micheál Martin following a Cabinet meeting to discuss the easing of restrictions this morning. 

In a government document released this afternoon, it was confirmed that:

  • Specific sectoral guidance will be developed for nightclubs setting out appropriate protective measures.
  • This will involve COVID-19 passes, contact tracing data collection and wearing of facemasks except when eating, drinking and dancing

However, this sectoral guidance is yet to be released. The Taoiseach did confirm to reporters that “what traditionally happens at nightclubs will still happen at nightclubs” – though he didn’t specify exactly what that entailed.

In a statement to The Journal, the Department of Tourism, Culture, and Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Sectors confirmed that it is working on the guidelines:

We welcome the Government announcement about the return of nightclubs. This will provide some much needed relief to a sector that has been closed for a considerable time.
Departmental officials are urgently working on the detailed guidelines signalled by Government with a view to ensuring they are in place as early as possible. We understand that there are some clarifications and anomalies which need to be worked through and will be engaging with the Department of An Taoiseach, sectoral and other stakeholders over the coming hours and days to find resolutions to any issues which may arise.

No confirmation on capacity numbers in nightclubs was given this afternoon.

In relation to live events, the government confirmed:

  • for indoor live music, drama, live entertainment and sporting events audience/spectators should be fully seated (standing permitted at your seat)

This would affect any standing-only events booked in by Irish promoters from 22 October. 

Overall, Martin confirmed that from Friday, Covid-19 Digital Certificates will continue be required for indoor activities, and there is advice that people with Covid-19 symptoms should stay at home.

He said the government will also be encouraging people who are attending events to self-test with antigen tests.  

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) was “clear we can reopen sectors” but with certain restrictions, said Martin. 

The issue of what will happen with nightclubs has been pressing for promoters as events have already been booked in for this weekend.

Just one nightclub has been allowed to open in Ireland since the onset of the pandemic – a pilot nightclub event for 450 people was held at Dublin’s Button factory on 30 September

It was hoped that the event would help with planning 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.

Government leaders were warned last night that there are risks associated with further easing – with sources stating that overall the briefing from health experts was “quite pessimistic” about the next few weeks and months.

Today’s Cabinet meeting followed a meeting of NPHET, who gave their advice to Cabinet on what restrictions should be eased.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) also met yesterday to discuss the issue of booster shots for the over 60s

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The meetings came after a week of questions about the current level of Covid-19 in Ireland and the number of people hospitalised and in ICU with the virus. 

‘Devastating blow’

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland described the announcement as “another devastating blow to the pub trade”.

VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said: “Over 92% of people are vaccinated so we could easily have removed mandatory table service by limiting entry to customers with vaccine passes. Instead, Government has guaranteed the closure of more pubs over the coming months.

“The return of normal trading hours is simply a fig leaf for the fact bar counters remain off limits. This restriction alone will mean pubs can’t operate at full capacity and will make continued trading impossible for many of our members.”

Cribben added that there is a “glaring anomaly” for nightclubs where “people will be permitted to dance while customers in pubs” cannot sit at the bar counter.

“We thought this crisis was coming to an end on Friday but now face the prospect of severely curtailed trading through the busiest period of the year. Government cannot allow the sector to limp on in this fashion and must come back with a concrete plan for the pub trade,” Cribben said.

With reporting by Eoghan Dalton

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