Anomalies around nightclub guidelines will be resolved within 24 hours, Minister says

Nightclubs will reopen without antigen testing or any limits on capacity, Martin says

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said she was closely engaging with the hospitality sector to allow them full guidance on the reopening of venues. Photograph: Maxwells

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said she was closely engaging with the hospitality sector to allow them full guidance on the reopening of venues. Photograph: Maxwells

 

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin has said she is confident the anomalies surrounding the reopening of nightclubs and live music venues will be resolved within the next 24 hours.

Ms Martin said that she was closely engaging with the hospitality sector to allow them full guidance so that the reopening of venues — as well as further relaxing of restrictions in restaurants, pubs and hotels — can go ahead on October 22nd.

Government officials met with representatives of the hospitality sector on Wednesday afternoon to discuss anomalies that have arisen ahead of a further relaxation of restrictions from Friday including the reopening of nightclubs.

Representatives from the Restaurants Association, Hotel Federation and the two Publican associations met with officials from the Department of Tourism, and the Department of Enterprise, at 3pm.

Speaking at an event in the Epic Museum in Dublin, Ms Martin said:

“My message to those who are engaged, to promoters, to venues, and to musicians, is to bear with us for another 24 hours. I am confident we will have a solution.”

Ms Martin said that when the numbers of Covid-19 cases began to go in the wrong direction, and the Nphet letter arrived on Monday night, it prompted some changes in the reopening plans.

“I am very aware of the needs of this industry and I am solution-focused. With the Department officials we have been extensively engaging with the sector,” she said.

She said nightclubs were reopening without the antigen testing and at 100 percent capacity.

She said that people would not have to wear masks when dancing or when drinking.

“We are working on the guidelines on everything else with the sector. That engagement is happening with the night-time economy sector.”

Asked if she accepted responsibility for the anomalies that have arisen, she replied that at “every twist and turn in this pandemic, especially every opening time, there seems to be complications.”

Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurant Association, said on Wednesday that several anomalies had arisen from the decision. He pointed to a situation where a restaurant would not be in a position to host a function, as there was a maximum of ten people per table.

“A hotel down the road can hold a black tie dinner for example attended by 100 people but restaurants don’t know if they would be allowed to do the same, with ten tables with a maximum of 10 people at each table.”

The Department of Arts and Culture will be clarifying issues around the changes for club and live events over the coming days. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times
The Department of Arts and Culture will be clarifying issues around the changes for club and live events over the coming days. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

‘Sense of perspective’

Meanwhile Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called for a “sense of perspective” in the debate around the continued reopening of the country as he pledged that outstanding concerns around the operation of nightclubs would be resolved.

Speaking at Government Buildings on Wednesday morning, Mr Martin also said he will be seeking more regular compliance reports about the use of Covid-19 vaccination certs by businesses.

Asked about criticism about the lack of clarity, Mr Martin said:

“To be honest my main concern is to protect public health and to protect people’s safety and lives, and we need to get a sense of perspective in the debate.

“This morning there are 464 people in hospital. There were 74 in intensive care. These are real people. We want to keep those numbers down.

“Unfortunately, over the last two weeks the situation has gotten worse. That’s the context in which we have announced a cautious further reopening of sectors of society.”

Mr Martin indicated a stricter regime in terms of checking Covid-19 certificates is on the cards.

“I’ll be looking for more regular compliance reports in respect of adherence to the presentation of the vaccination cert and other protective measures. And I’ve asked the secretary general to compile that report and the regulatory forum is meeting today which is made up of bodies around compliance.”

‘Incomprehensible’

Nightclub operators say they need to see guidelines so that they can understand what the rules will be around social distancing and the wearing of masks, and so they can decide whether they are feasible.

Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), who represent pubs and late bars in Dublin, said publicans had “no idea” how the rules were going to work.

In many cases nightclubs in Dublin city operated as normal bars during earlier hours, and several pubs had a separate club section, he said.

“The reality is every late bar in Dublin is an ordinary bar until 10pm or 11pm … There’s very few true ‘nightclubs’, even Coppers had a carvery during the day,” he said.

There was no separate “nightclub license” to distinguish between clubs and late bars, he said.

In the Dáil Labour leader Alan Kelly described the proposals for the re-opening of nightclubs as “unworkable and incomprehensible”.

He told Taoiseach Micheál Martin that he had “put the cart before the horse” and should have consulted the entertainment sector ahead of the Government’s announcement on Tuesday about the re-opening.

Dave Parle of Hidden Agenda Promotions, who run gigs and club nights in The Big Romance bar on Parnell St, criticised the uncertainty venues had been left with days before the reopening.

“We have club events for Friday which it looks like it’s allowed to go ahead, but we’re still figuring out some of the mechanics of actually operating a club show,” he said.

“The phrase about there being some anomalies, by Micheál Martin I think, is probably an understatement,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“In practicality there’s a plethora of anomalies at the minute that we’re experiencing - for example I have a show on Friday week and it’s a live show, but it’s 9pm doors that goes on until 3am, so it’s kind of in a club setting and I have no idea if that’s allowed within the current guidelines,” he said.

There was particular confusion for venues that functioned as pubs, which also put on club nights, he said.

“Often how those venues would function is they will have a gig at 8pm, that would finish at around 11pm and then they would move into their club setting,” Mr Parle said.

“What we’re trying to wrap our heads around is are we saying that those 8pm gigs can’t happen, but if the band played later at night, during the late licence section of the evening - is that allowed to proceed with a dance floor?,” he said.