Taoiseach defends nightclub tickets plan which vintners label a ‘disaster’

Government plan to come into effect next week widely derided by industry figures

It’s been 585 days, 83 weeks or 19 months since the Dublin nightclubs opened their doors. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has defended a new Government requirement which would see all live music events and late-night hospitality ticketed, claiming it “can be done very easily”.

“The virus is dictating this,” he said. “Not the Government. The Government doesn’t want to be putting restrictions on people but we have to respond to the virus as it manifests itself.”

The requirement has been derided by industry representatives, with one referring to the process of reopening as “Father Ted stuff”.

All events and nightclubs must be fully ticketed from next week, Government officials told representatives of the sector on Friday night as guidelines for reopening were issued just hours before nightclubs welcomed revellers.

The sector was told it would be necessary for patrons to have tickets “in advance” of events in the interest of public health, and regulations are being drafted to give effect to the decision.

Ticketing is required for the purposes of contact tracing for all nightclubs and venues, officials said.

Mr Martin was critical of the political opposition to the measure, and suggested it was similar to when “all hell broke loose” in the Dáil and elsewhere when digital Covid certificates were made mandatory for indoor dining in July.

However, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has described the new rules as “a disaster” for late bars, nightclubs and musicians. It is understood that “in advance” will be defined as at least 24 hours before the beginning of an event, and possibly up to 72 hours. The LVA said this was “completely unmanageable”.

Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, said: “We can’t believe that this is being proposed by Government.

“It is a disaster for late bars, nightclubs and musicians. It simply won’t be possible to put such a system in place. It contradicts the very nature of social activity in Ireland. Do they know anything about the late-night economy?

“If the Government goes ahead with these requirements then ad hoc late-night socialising will not be possible. It could also have a devastating impact on DJs and live performers as most pubs simply won’t put on such entertainment.

‘Bombshell’

“The very fact that this bombshell was dropped on the trade at 6.30pm on the very evening they reopen after 585 days of closure shows how appalling the Government planning for our reopening has been.

“The Government process to reopen out sector has become Keystone Cops meets Father Ted stuff,” he added.

Mr O’Keeffe said on Saturday he expected the “unworkable” regulations to be published and put in to law by Thursday of next week.

In an interview on Today with Katie Hannon, on RTÉ Radio 1, he stressed that vintners throughout the country currently had “no idea” how the system would work. “Are we supposed to kick all our customers out at closing time and readmit our customers? Are we supposed to admit ticketed customers only if they intend to stay? If a visitor comes to Dublin are they supposed to have tickets in advance? This thing is just plain nuts.”

Mr O’Keeffe said vintners had complied with public health advice every step of the way and as fully and properly as was required.

“We are only admitting vaccinated customers. We were led to believe that would be sufficient. We are happy to continue to check Covid certs and maintain contact tracing.”

He added that after “leaks” and “counterleaks” the vintners were called to an urgent meeting on Friday night with Government where they were informed that ticketing was definitively and decisively in the guidelines.

Confusion

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) said the guidelines would lead to confusion among both staff and customers and would be impossible to implement.

It suggested the move could lead to public order incidents as large ticketless crowds gather outside clubs.

VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben said: “When it comes to reopening guidelines for the late-night sector the Government appear to be all over the place with no practical knowledge of how the sector operates.

“This really has been a shambolic process from the press conference last Tuesday to this last minute senseless U-turn. We now have a situation where clubs can sell tickets at the door this weekend but must move to ticket only in advance by next week.

“We’re extremely worried the new guidelines will lead to public order incidents as ticketless groups gather outside clubs. It is unworkable.

“There remains simple questions that cannot be answered. How will this be managed in late bars? How will music and dancing be regulated in traditional pubs? Simple questions but officials remain unable to explain what guidelines pubs should implement.

“After being constrained for so long the sector deserves better. Right now it’s in a total mess with no leadership from Government.”

Volunteer group

Meanwhile, the Give us the Night group, an independent volunteer group of professionals operating within the night-time industry, said it had been told “twice already” that the measure “wouldn’t be happening”.

“What changed today and what bright spark pushed this through?” it said. “This week has been a farce.”

Elsewhere, the Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland said: “This is a total betrayal. These are not the guidelines that were presented and subsequently emailed to the industry stakeholders at and after last night’s meeting with the industry.”

A spokeswoman for the Garda said there were no public order incidents reported across the country on Friday night.

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