Nightlife revamp plan: Longer opening hours, extended alcohol sales for debate

Licensing law shake-up originally flagged earlier this year as part of Justice Plan 2021

The report covers 36 proposed actions, including bringing more venues into late-night use by linking them with artists and promoters to provide new spaces for performance, and extending opening hours in cultural institutions. Photograph: iStock

The report covers 36 proposed actions, including bringing more venues into late-night use by linking them with artists and promoters to provide new spaces for performance, and extending opening hours in cultural institutions. Photograph: iStock

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

The Government is to examine longer opening hours, extending the sale of alcohol to new venues, and the use of empty buildings as part of a plan to revamp the night-time economy.

A report from the night-time economy taskforce, to be brought to Cabinet on Wednesday, recommends major reform of the licensing laws, as well as a range of supports and initiatives for the sector.

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin will present the report to the Government as part of an effort to shake up the sector and broaden the range of night-time activities across society.

It covers 36 proposed actions, including bringing more venues into late-night use by linking them with artists and promoters to provide new spaces for performance, and extending opening hours in cultural institutions.

It recommends that supports should be put in place to allow cafes and clubs to open later for culture and live events from Monday to Thursday, as well as ways to develop options for alcohol-free activities.

The report recommends that a pilot to establish night-time economy advisers – previously known as night mayors – and committees to support them in six cities and towns across the country should be undertaken. Meanwhile, planning codes and other regulations should be examined to enable buildings, including empty units, to be used for night-time economy activities in what is termed “meanwhile use”.

Safeguards should also be put in place to protect women and other vulnerable people working in the sector, the report finds, while the report also says the nightclub sector and electronic music should be recognised as an integral part of that economy.

Alcohol bill

In a related move, Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton will seek Cabinet approval to proceed with drafting the Sale of Alcohol Bill 2021, which was initiated by Helen McEntee earlier this year. As part of the drafting, consideration is to be given to the sale of alcohol in non-traditional venues such as art galleries or museums, as well as staggered or extended opening hours for licensed premises.

The licensing law shake-up was originally flagged earlier this year as part of Ms McEntee’s Justice Plan 2021, before she temporarily relinquished the Justice portfolio to go on maternity leave. Some Irish licensing laws date to the 19th century, with the objective of the new Sale of Alcohol Bill to repeal the Licensing Acts and Registration of Clubs Acts in their entirety and to replace them with updated provisions.

The Public Dance Hall Act 1935 is also set to be repealed as part of a Coalition push to support the culture, hospitality and nightclub sectors.

The night-time economy taskforce was established in July of last year, following on from commitments to address the needs and future of the sector in the programme for government. It was tasked with examining regulations, licensing laws, transport and other issues and identifying solutions for the sector.

Many businesses in the area have been further challenged since then due to their ongoing closure to help control the spread of Covid, with plans to reopen venues in the weeks ahead signed off last month by the Government.

Initiatives in other European and overseas cities which blend hospitality, socialising and cultural activities, often in museums or galleries, with live music, are seen as a model to follow in Ireland. Improvements to the public realm to encourage outdoor activities as part of the wider offering are encouraged in the report.

Some of the initiatives envisaged by the report, such as longer opening hours for events, will be part of this week’s Culture Night.