There will be ‘teething problems’ with ticketing for live events, Varadkar says

Tánaiste gives no indication requested two-week delay to rules will be accepted

A DJ plays as people dance in Tramline nightclub on D’Olier Street as nightclubs reopened in Dublin. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

A DJ plays as people dance in Tramline nightclub on D’Olier Street as nightclubs reopened in Dublin. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has admitted there will be “teething problems and implementation problems” in reopening the night-time economy with a ticketing system.

Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Varadkar said that policies in the area will be kept under review following a backlash from industry groups, but gave no indication that requests for a two-week delay to implementation of the new rules would be accepted.

“We’ll keep things under review, we’ll continue to meet and engage with the sector, but in order for the sector to stay open, in order for us to allow the night-time economy and night life to operate, we’re going to need to make sure that anyone attending night-time events is fully vaccinated, that we don’t see crowding in certain places and we make sure we’re able to do contact tracing and nothing is over capacity,” he said.

“To be very frank, I think there are going to be teething problems and there are going to be implementation problems, and we will keep all of these matters under review and will keep engaging with the sector. The most important thing is we manage to get the sector open and the second most important thing is that we make sure the sector stays open.”

On Tuesday evening, the Department of Culture said it had met with industry representatives to “help clarify” the Government decision made earlier this month to move ahead with easing restrictions.

“The main issue of discussion was the requirement for all those businesses who wish to operate as a live entertainment venue or nightclub to use electronic ticketing systems as a condition of entry to their premises. It was clarified that tickets must be purchased or acquired at least one hour before arrival and must contain details to allow for robust contract tracing,” the department said.

Officials met alongside civil servants from the Department of Enterprise. The statement said they had “listened to the concerns of the industry and will continue to engage throughout the reopening period. Regulations and revised guidance for the sectors impacted by this will be published this week.”

“The Government wishes to move forward with this phase of reopening; however, Covid-19 still represents a very real threat to society and the aim of these measures is to balance this new reopening phase with public health considerations.”

Delay

Earlier on Tuesday, representatives from the hospitality sector said they were seeking a two-week delay on enforcing new ticketing requirements for events in late bars and pubs, which would see patrons required to acquire an electronic ticket an hour before admission.

There is also pushback from the sector over stipulations that congregations cannot occur outside venues, with the industry complaining that it has no role in controlling the public street.

The industry was told that it will be expected to implement new regulations from the time they are signed into law, most likely this coming Thursday.

Under the new regulations, electronic ticketing will be needed for events where there is dancing, and will have to be acquired an hour before an event starts.

However, the sector said it will need extra time to figure out how to implement the measures, and has raised serious concerns over several aspects. Live music events will not need a ticket, so long as there is no dancing.

“We’re asking for two weeks after the regulations have been signed,” Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Association, told The Irish Times on Tuesday.

He said the pause was necessary to allow operators to “get organised before they come into effect, to give the industry an opportunity to prepare. It’s only right they get an opportunity to respond to this.”

Concerned

The industry is also concerned about what will happen to patrons who are already in a hospitality venue when a musical act with dancing involved comes on later in the evening - whether they will have to acquire a ticket, and leave the venue before re-entering.

Mr O’Keeffe said there was a “really unacceptable situation” where guidelines were still not finalised but businesses would be expected to enforce them straight away.

“It’s just not fair for businesses that have been closed for so long that the goalposts keep moving,” he said.

Sinn Féin TD Claire Kerrane claimed the situation is “a complete mess” and accused the Government of failing to prepare for the October 22nd reopening date saying “they should have been engaging with the sector.

She said she understands that there “still isn’t clarity” for people running nightclubs and late bars after today’s meeting between the Government and hospitality sector and said: “It is a really, really ridiculous situation to put them in.”

Ms Kerrane argued that introducing a ticketing system later in the week would be “near impossible for a lot of venues”.

She said that a lot of rural pubs and nightclubs don’t have an online presence.

Ms Kerrane also said developing a system for ticketing would cost money for venues and “it’s probably money that doesn’t exist”.

Asked by reporters if there should be a two-week grace period for implementation of the new ticketing arrangements - as sought by the industry - Ms Kerrane agreed that businesses would “need time”.

She said: “I think that’s a very reasonable request.

“Because for a lot of them, they don’t have an online presence.

“It’s going to cost them money if they do it online.

“So it’s going to be a problem and that’s the least they deserve.

“And it’s just a pity that that wasn’t discussed a month ago or six weeks ago to give them that time that they needed. And now we are where we are.”

The proprietor of a late night venue in Dublin city centre on Tuesday warned that the one hour advance purchase of tickets for nightclubs could have an adverse impact on the sector.

Ian Redmond of The Tramline said he could not “fathom” the requirement. “How is one hour going to stop the spread of the virus?” he asked.

Contact tracing information was stored on a club’s database, which meant the information would be available in the event of an outbreak at a premises, he told RTÉ Radio’s News at One.

On the same programme, promoter Buzz O’Neill said people were not going to buy tickets in advance for some premises, which would harm the industry.

The Government had decided to do what the industry had “begged” the Department of Health not to do, he said.

“They’re putting up another roadblock for us,” said Mr O’Neill.

“Today’s story should have been about an incredible weekend of compliance.”

Sunil Sharpe of the Give Us The Night group which advocates for the night time economy also called for a gap between regulations being signed off and introduced.

“The fact the planning never started and is still in the works after we’ve reopened is a poor reflection on the Government and how they’ve prepared for it,” he said.

“We need time to prepare and get it right. If you rush something, there’s a greater chance you get it wrong.”

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