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Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
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open all hours

Licensing changes to allow nightclubs open until 6am and pubs open until 12.30am by summer 2023

While venues will be prohibited from serving alcohol after 5am, dancing will continue until closing time.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 25th 2022, 2:00 PM

NIGHTCLUBS WILL HAVE the option to remain open until 6am, under new proposals that will go before Cabinet today.

While venues will be prohibited from serving alcohol after 5am, dancing will continue until closing time, “subject to strict conditions”.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee will bring forward the proposals in an attempt to “reform Ireland’s antiquated licensing laws”.

Some of these laws date back to the 19th century, while two thirds of the laws predate the foundation of the State 100 years ago.

Last year, the Justice Minister began work on modernising these laws and previously said she is committed to enacting alcohol licensing laws “that reflect the changing expectations and lifestyles of 21st century Ireland”. 

It’s said the General Scheme of the Sale of Alcohol Bill will lead to “one modern piece of legislation to regulate the sale of alcohol”.


The move to allow nightclubs to open later is described as a way to develop Ireland’s night time culture and economy.

It is understood that the nightclub permits will largely be availed of by bigger nightclubs and venues, mainly in cities, and will not be availed of by many nightclubs.

“Unfortunately, we have seen the numbers of nightclubs in Ireland reduce significantly in recent years. Some estimates have suggested that we only have 80 nightclubs, down from over 500 twenty years ago, to 300 in 2009 and only 80 today,” McEntee said.

It is understood that nightclubs that avail of the 6am closing time, can do seven days a week, if they so wish. Pubs and clubs must remain closed on Christmas Day. 

Licenses can only be granted by the courts, with objections allowed from the HSE, fire authorities, the gardaí and local authorities. Local people with a genuine interest may also object to the granting or renewal of a licence. 

Opening hours for late bars will remain at 2.30am and a new late bar permit will be required.

Responsibility for licensing will move from the Circuit Court to the District Court, in a move which the government hopes will make the process of obtaining a license more efficient.

The system will be streamlined by significantly reducing the number of licenses available and online renewal will be possible where there are no objections

Late night venues require a Special Exemption in order to open, and the cost of applying for one was halved in the recent budget from €110 to €55.

The licensing system will be streamlined, so that online renewals will be possible where there are no objections.

Premises will be required to have CCTV on the premises and security staff that are properly accredited. Nightclubs must also have 20% of their floor allocated for dancing, a live band or DJ must be playing. 

Plans for enactment by summer 2023

In addition, McEntee said that new enforcement measures will also be included in the new legislation, which the minister said she plans to have over the line by summer 2023. 

Rules around the sale of alcohol online will also be strengthened, ensuring that sales must be paid for in advance and the person delivering the alcohol must check the ID of the buyer to ensure they are over 18. Failing to do so will be an offence, the same as if an off licence sold alcohol to a minor. 

Gardaí will also be able to close down a premises temporarily if they fail to to adhere to the rules, as well as fixed charge notices if alcohol is being consumed in the nightclub beyond the permitted time. 

Off licence opening hours will also be standardised and permitted to sell alcohol from 10.30am to 10pm, seven days a week. Currently Sunday sales can only take place after 12.30pm. 

Pilot scheme

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin, welcomed the bill’s publication and announced a support package for the night-time economy to include 9 new towns and cities.

The new Night-Time Advisor Pilot initiative will see nine towns and cities recruit advisors “who will help drive and support a more sustainable night-time economy in their specific areas,” according to Martin.

The selected pilot locations are Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny, Drogheda, Sligo, Buncrana and Longford.

“They will work with businesses, communities, venues, residents and artists to create a more vibrant nightlife for all and bring vitality back to our city and town centres in a safe and sustainable way,” the minister added.

Reduction in nightclubs in Ireland 

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin this morning, McEntee said that there has been a significant fall off in the number of nightclubs operating in Ireland, with many top international acts not playing in the country, like they once did, due to the lack of premises. 

After engagement with stakeholders, she said the industry is “dying on its feet”. 

She added that pubs in towns and villages have also been in decline, stating that the Government wants to ensure that it is easier for those who want to open a pub to do so. 

An amendment to the so-called ‘extinguishment’ provision, whereby anyone seeking to open a new premises or an off licence must first purchase a licence of an existing licence holder in order to do so. 

This can be an impediment to opening a new pub in towns and villages where some premises have shut, particularly in rural areas, she said. 

The minister said often these licenses are sold in closed, undisclosed transactions to large supermarket chains who want to open an off licence in store.

Opening new pubs 

The cost of a licence can also be prohibitive for someone who wants to open a pub, she said. Therefore, a transition period of three years will take place with the extinguishment rules being removed. 

The fee for a new licence will be decided at a later point after engagement, she said. 

The extinguishment rule will remain in place for off licences. 

McEntee said she does not believe there is a need for a dramatic increase in the number of new pubs, but added that where a town has lost its pub, there must be an acknowledgement that “the community has lost one of its focal points”.

The idea of later opening hours for nightclubs was first floated by Tánaiste Leo 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”.

“Rural pubs are closing, as have many nightclubs in urban areas, while the number of off-licences is increasing. It is not all about alcohol and should not be, but is part of the picture. It’s about cutting red tape and streamlining regulation,” he added.

Speaking this morning, he said alcohol consumption has been falling in Ireland, per capita. 

“I don’t think these changes will lead to an increase in alcohol consumption. Nobody can say that for sure. But my hope is that it won’t. It will see people drinking perhaps more in a controlled environment like in a pub or restaurant rather than drinking heavily at home,” he said.

“And that will be what I anticipate will happen. Also as Minister McEntee said, in the round, I think it would be beneficial for public safety point of view, because instead of everyone emptying out on the streets at the same time, because of the pub licence, the late bar licence and nightclub license, you’ll see that being much more staggered, and indeed, many people being able to take public transport home early in the morning,” added Varadkar. 

With additional reporting from Christina Finn

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