Weren’t the clubs open last week. What’s changed?
Many nightclubs did open for the first time since the start of the pandemic and those that did appeared very busy. Long queues formed on Dublin's Harcourt Street for the first time in more than 19 months in a reminder of how we partied before Covid-19 – albeit with new rules around face masks and (some) social distancing. Since then new guidelines have been published outlining the dos and don'ts for the nightclub and live entertainment sector. Unlike last weekend all attendees must book tickets in advance to facilitate contact tracing. Representatives of the nightclub sector have criticised this requirement with the Licensed Vintners Association claiming it will be a "disaster" and "completely unmanageable".
I want to go clubbing tonight. What do I need?
Three things are now required to gain entry to a nightclub – a Covid-19 vaccine pass showing you’re fully vaccinated or immune; photo ID to prove the pass relates to you; and an electronic ticket purchased at least an hour before attendance.
Where do I book my tickets?
Nightclubs and venues appear to be scrambling to set up booking systems and are updating people on social media. Copper Face Jacks began directing people to the booking portal with an Instagram post shortly after 3pm on Friday afternoon. Rearden's in Cork appears to have a booking system for its three venues up on its website. The Queens Venue in Ennis is advertising Halloween parties for tomorrow and Sunday night and tickets are bookable. Langton's Nightclub in Kilkenny in contrast is not opening this weekend, despite opening last week. Its social media post does not explain the reason but says: "Please keep an eye on our socials for all future updates regarding Club nights." So anyone hoping to hit the dancefloor this weekend should check social media for ticketing arrangements in their desired venue before heading out.
What kinds of venues require tickets?
The Government guidelines essentially apply to places that have late licences, have live entertainment such as a DJ or band and dance floors.
What if I’m in a pub with a late licence and want to stay on past the standard closing time?
Standard closing times are 11.30pm on weeknights and 12.30am at the weekend. Under the rules you can stay if you book a ticket an hour in advance while you are on the premises. You can stay so long as you can demonstrate to the operator that you have gotten a ticket and all of the contact tracing and proof of immunity requirements have been met.
Are there rules around queuing and social distancing?
Nighclub operators have a checklist that says the queue into the premises must be managed in the "safest way possible" and says they should ensure only people with tickets are in the line. Specific distances for social distancing have been removed other than for bar service. The guidelines say that the sector "should ensure that space is maximised and social distancing encouraged as part of the overall infection prevention control measures especially for shared spaces, eg restrooms, foyers, concourses etc". There must be "strict adherence" to rules stating that "patrons may only approach the bar to order, pay for or collect food/drinks" and there must be "one-metre social distancing between each person in the queue and at the bar". Venues must also have an employee supervising the queue.
Facemasks should be worn in all indoor venues at all times by staff. Customers are required to wear facemasks when they are not dancing, drinking or eating.
What happens if a nightclub is breaking the rules?
The guidelines say that compliance with the Covid pass rule at the door is “a matter for all of us, and where a pass is not looked for, patrons and participants should ask why not”.
Venues may also be subject to inspection by compliance officers from the Health Service Executive and/or the Health and Safety Authority to confirm compliance with Covid-19 regulations. They must provide inspectors with records upon request and "failure to do so could result in closure and/or prosecution".
Nightclub owners who fail to comply with regulations could be fined up to €2,500 for a first offence. If a cessation order is granted and the nightclub owner fails to comply, they could be subjected to a fine of up to €5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both.