Over 18 months ago nightclubs shut their doors and have still yet to reopen. The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the clubbing industry. Alongside the thousands of jobs that have been wiped out, students and young people have lost an important part of their lives.

Before the pandemic, Irish nightclubs, particularly those in Dublin were packed with students socialising. Since then a key part of a typical students college experience has been wiped out. 

Three months after clubs shut their doors a taskforce was created by the government to explore reform of late-night venue licensing laws and according to the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts and Culture, Catherine Martin, to create a ‘vibrant and sustainable’ night-time culture and economy.  

Speaking at the launch of the taskforce, Minister Martin cited the pandemic which she said had ‘severely restricted social gatherings and has been detrimental to the night-time economy and culture of our cities, towns and villages.’ She added that ‘the industry needs to be ready to bounce back and to have as few obstacles as possible to develop and grow.’

Last week the Night-Time Economy Taskforce published a report with several recommendations, most notably, allowing some nightclubs in select locations to open until as late as 6am. The report also recommends the recruitment of six ‘night-time economy advisors’ in six cities and towns across the country.

A group called ‘Give us the Night,’  which had representation on the taskforce and has long campaigned for a licensing overhaul has cited other countries around the world that experience the ‘benefits of a healthy night-time economy’ and argued against the ‘heavy restrictions placed on night-time businesses’ in Ireland.

Speaking at the launch of the report Minister Catherine Martin said that ‘We are looking at the rebirth of Ireland’s nightlife and it is within our power to achieve this, especially with people now assessing their lifestyles, because of the pandemic.’ 

The nightlife industry in Ireland has campaigned for years against the current alcohol licensing laws which they argue hurts their businesses and negatively impacts the experiences of nightclub goers. While COVID-19 has undoubtedly hurt the industry significantly, could the pandemic finally act as a catalyst for change that the industry desperately needs to recover? It begs the question, could COVID save clubbing?

Conor Paterson – Co-Editor