Ireland plans to overhaul licensing laws and extend club closing times

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  • Speaking to Resident Advisor, Give Us The Night campaigner Sunil Sharpe called the news a "huge development."
  • Ireland plans to overhaul licensing laws and extend club closing times image
  • Ireland's justice minister, Helen McEntee, has unveiled new plans to overhaul current licensing laws and extend nightclub closing times. The commitments to nightlife were among around 200 measures included in McEntee's Justice Plan 2021, which was announced on Monday, February 22nd. Though the plans are still to be finalised, they're expected to include staggered and extended closing times for pubs and clubs, as well as a new annual permit to allow clubs to stay open past 2:30 AM, The Irish Times reports. "I fully acknowledge that we are talking about this at a time when much of that industry is closed," McEntee told Newstalk. "What I want to say very clearly to that industry is that when you get back on your feet, we are going to be there to support you." She added: "We have fantastic musicians, artists, DJs, promoters and people working in this industry who are going to need more supports when Covid-19 finishes and that is what this legislation is about." The news has been warmly received by Ireland's nightlife community, who have been fighting for years to reform and even repeal what they consider archaic licensing laws, some of which date back nearly a century. If a new annual permit is introduced, it'll replace the current system of applying for expensive SEOs (Special Exemption Orders). In 2008, the government raised the cost from €220 to €410 per event, crippling many venues and promoters. "Changes to our licensing laws and closing times are many years coming," Dublin-based DJ and Give Us The Night campaigner Sunil Sharpe told Resident Advisor. "While a lot of people seem to think that Covid-19 is the reason for these changes, I wouldn't exactly agree with that. We got a commitment from all of the main political parties during the last general election campaign, and then an inclusion in the programme for government. It was always going in this direction." He adds: "That said, I think the extent of the changes is now going to be more ambitious given the pressure all entertainment and hospitality businesses are under. The stars have aligned in ways, and no one deserves this more than our sector. What the government did to our club scene in 2008 was outrageous, it crippled the industry, but now in the midst of the worst point ever for the industry and club scene, there is a bit more hope for how we'll return." "From the campaign's point of view, it's a huge development that the minister has publicly announced her intentions. The last similar announcement, that didn't go nearly as far as hers and never led to anything either, was over 15 years ago. The fact that we will most likely see an end to the 1935 Public Dance Halls Act, too, is very important to our campaign. It's hard to express how much that means to all of us here. It's an infamous piece of legislation that has hurt music culture in Ireland through many generations." Photo credit: Antonie Julien