The Coppers formula
Copper Face Jacks, on Harcourt Street, is a cheesy nightclub, somewhere between school disco and local rural nightclub, in the middle of the capital
“The queue started to build. At that point we had a very rigorous and strict queuing system because of the lane [around the venue]. We managed it, it worked really well. At 11.45pm they started arriving in hundreds, all at once. In the space of 15 minutes more than 1,000 arrived and completely packed the laneway, pushing and shoving, fighting.
“We were trying to get them in, but as soon as they were going in they were coming out to smoke, literally paying and coming out the door. It was 15 minutes of very nervy stuff until I said, ‘Cancel it, evacuate the building.’ Moments after we made that decision, gardaí arrived and aided us and the entire place was dispersed within 45 minutes.” No one was injured.
One thing that sticks in Spollen’s mind is the crowd itself. “It’s the same thing, 18-year-olds from south Co Dublin who are just crazy. No idea of behaving. They drink cheap booze on campus or at home, they stock up and have no fear of repercussions. We got out of the club game shortly after. If these people were our customers, we didn’t want to deal with it.”
Cheap alcohol in supermarkets is a legacy of the abolition of the Grocery Order, and cheap alcohol in nightclubs is the legacy of botched “happy hour” legislation. Section 20 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 banned the supply of alcohol on a licensed premises at a reduced price during a limited period on any day.
Publicans, promoters, and punters found an easy way around this law by scratching the “limited period” part and just offering discounted alcohol all night.
But the race to the bottom that typified nightclubs in the capital over the past couple of years as venues were desperate for business, culminating in many clubs simply giving alcohol away, isn’t part of the sell in Copper Face Jacks now.
Thursday night is quieter and, again, the only real visible trouble is outside on Harcourt Street. At 2.30am, two gardaí are manning the laneway. The doorman says they close at 3am, but shortly after that, they’re still letting a smattering of people in.
An argument between a couple ends in the young man pushing the young woman violently. She falls against a lamppost.
Ten minutes later a girl is half-carried out by a friend, hobbling, with a cut on her leg. A fight is about to start between two groups of young men, one of whom is shouting “You’re slagging my girlfriend,” but violence doesn’t break out.
A man leads a young woman down the street. They appear to be a new “couple”. She’s too drunk to form a sentence. “My friends . . .” she says, slurring her words. He leads her away, before she has to stop and sit on steps nearby. Fifteen minutes later, he’s leading her down the street again, past a discarded, empty vodka bottle.