Nightclubs must be fully ticketed from next week, newly issued guidelines state

Licensed Vintners Association brands change ‘unworkable’ as venues reopen tonight

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


All events and nightclubs must be fully ticketed from next week, Government officials have told representatives of the sector as guidelines for reopening tonight were issued.

The sector was told it was necessary for patrons to have tickets in the interest of public health and regulations being drafted to give effect to the decision will be put in place next week.

Ticketing is required, for the purposes of contact tracing, for all nightclubs and venues. Opening hours will also return to normal.

A spokesman for the Department of Tourism said a further meeting between officials and industry representatives would take place next week to finalise the guidelines and regulations. Once they were issued, ticketing would then apply to nightclubs.

It was stressed that tickets for nightclubs could be purchased right up to until the doors opened and could also be purchased online.

But the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has described the new ticketing rules as a “disaster” for late bars, nightclubs and musicians. It claimed the Government process to open the sector had become “Keystone Cops meets Father Ted stuff”.

The LVA said it had told Government officials the new requirements were “completely unmanageable”.

Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA said: “We can’t believe that this is being proposed by Government. As we made clear at the meeting this is completely unworkable. 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.

“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,” Mr O’Keeffe concluded.

The move comes after an intervention by other Government departments following the sharing by the Department of Tourism of its draft guidelines on Thursday night.

A further meeting between Government officials and representatives of nightclubs and music venues got underway this evening.

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The guidelines were issued after 6pm, with only hours to go before the reopening of nightclubs and music venues.

The updated guidelines, most of which take effect from today, allow full capacity at nightclub venues and dancing without masks.

At live music events, up to 1,500 standing patrons can attend, and any capacity above this number must be fully seated. Socially distanced bar service is permitted for drink orders and collection. All patrons must show proof of immunity and must have photographic ID.

There is also the removal of the restrictions on multiple table bookings with a maximum of 15 per table, of which a maximum of 10 may be adults. However, such events must be fully-seated, with food and beverages to be consumed at the table.

The guidelines also state that weddings can operate without any capacity restrictions.

A valid Covid-19 Digital Covid Certificate, with photographic identification is required for admission to all venues operating for the purposes of live entertainment, as well as nightclubs.

It is understood that there was concern among other Departments about complete reopening occurring at a time when the Covid situation is deteriorating rapidly.

In licensed premises, counter service may be permitted, for ordering and collecting where orderly, safe and socially-distanced queuing can occur. This will be the subject of regulation also.

“Government Public Health advice is still that table service is the safest style of service but relaxation recognises that queueing can be managed very safely once there is no congregation of people,” the guidelines state.

Minister for Culture and Arts Catherine Martin said: “The safe and viable return of the night time economy has been greatly anticipated, and welcomed, by the businesses and thousands of staff who bring Ireland’s cultural and nightlife economy to life.

“Covid is still a real threat to our society and the safety guidelines are necessary to balance public health while also facilitating the reopening of all sectors.

“Night club and live entertainment venues can return to welcoming customers (subject to capacity and standing limits for live events), however, it is vitally important that each venue operator utilises their skilled health and safety expertise, and exercises judgement and caution with due regard to protecting public health.”

The guidelines had been expected to issue last night but were delayed because of the need to draft regulations.

Representatives of the sector were told on Thursday night that guidelines for nightclubs and live music venues would be available within a short period of time.

However, while guidelines were issued for the restaurant sector on Thursday night, the publication of the advice and rules for the late-night entertainment sector were delayed.

Officials from the Department of Tourism told representatives that they were still working on completing guidelines but then said on Friday that there would be delays.

Under the proposals put forward by officials in the Department of Tourism, nightclubs and most music venues in the State will effectively operate at full capacity when they reopen on Friday night.

Minister for Arts and Tourism Catherine Martin confirmed on Thursday night that 1,500 people will be allowed to stand at indoor music venues, with the remaining members of the audience sitting. In effect, it means that most music venues in the country - with the exception of a small number such as the 3 Arena and the INEC in Killarney - will be allowed to run full-standing events.

In addition, nightclubs will also open with 100 per cent capacity, in essence eliminating social distancing protocols in those venues, except when ordering drinks at the bar.

In that respect, bar service will be allowed in all hospitality for the first time since restrictions were introduced. Patrons will be allowed to queue at the bar while maintaining social distance, and order drinks, but must then return to their seats after collecting the order.

It was also agreed on Thursday that all hospitality venues can have multiple table bookings with a maximum number of 10 people per table. The situation in pubs and restaurants is a little different as social distancing will remain, reducing their capacity to between 70 and 90 per cent, depending on the layout.