Government Continue

To Delay Irish Clubbing Legislation

Government returned from Summer holidays yesterday and with it news that reform of our archaic licensing law is facing further postponement.

The modernisation of rules governing your nightlife has been promised since 2007 however with an election on the horizon, we are now watching the second government prepare to leave office without any change.

Legislation on the Dáil schedule is divided into three groups; that which contents are broadly agreed, that which is currently being prepared and that which is ready to be published and passed over the coming weeks.

The Sale of Alcohol Bill is to replace over seventy pieces of legislation dating back to 1833 and the very first Licensing Act. That is, whether regulation of drinking in bogs or Good Friday closing, having a party in Ireland is often still governed by laws that pre-date the famine.

To use the government’s phrase, all this was to be ‘streamlined’ and in the words of former minister Alan Shatter shortly after taking office in 2011

“this Bill will update the law relating to the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol on licensed premises by repealing the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2010, as well as the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2008, and replacing them with provisions more suited to modern conditions.”

“Modern conditions” no less. All this sounded very promising however Alan Shatter has departed and his replacement, Frances Fitzgerald reverted back to reading meaningless replies in the Dáil.

The Sale of Alcohol Bill had slowly climbed its way to category B and was due for publication in ‘late 2015’. This was the closest it had been in nearly eight years but instead we learn that matters appear to have regressed once more.

Once again it is ‘not possible to indicate’ when it will be ready for publication.

How do we explain this? For starters, politicians are useless and any change encroaching on the stranglehold of publicans and large suppliers in the off-trade is fiercely resisted. Second, public health issues around below-cost alcohol and sponsorship means these matters are now higher up the government agenda [The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill separately rose rapidly in spite of industry opposition and is due to the debated shortly]. Thirdly, those most effected, be it venue owners, club promoters, DJs, label owners and the rest of us have not made our voice sufficiently heard.

The upshot is that there will be no change this side of an election and with a Fianna Fáil / Fine Gael coalition imminent, the situation is unlikely to improve for several years, if something is not done.

This means continued 2:30am closing — more clubs struggling as overpriced Diageo-fuelled late bars chew up the competition. More of your nights over before they begin. Irish club culture trying to operate in a legal climate with no differentiation between Jeff Mills and Richie Kavanagh.

Consequently there will be no debate about how we use space in our towns and cities. Where we should be able to hold unusual parties in unusual places at unusual times, where people can be creative — and do it legally.

Culture Night just gone provides a glimpse of this potential but despite being embraced nationwide, its objectives will never be fulfilled when everyone is expected to be in bed by 3am. With local music and arts output healthier than it has been in years, this cannot continue.

Politicians are keen to talk about ‘jobs’ and ‘competitiveness’ but idly stand over a situation where Ireland’s nightlife is extinguished under the most restrictive conditions in the EU. If this were the finance or farming sectors change would have come long ago. They can give us all the waffle about ‘start-ups’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ but if you want to organise a safe and sustainable party, you’re on your own.

Many of you will have spent hundreds of euro on Hoxton hotels and Kreuzberg dancefloors over this past year. Many of you are making further plans to the same again soon. It is due time Irish politicians are made to understand that fact and its effects.

I will be doing a bit more work on this in the coming weeks with the ultimate intention of impressing on government the need for action. If you want to keep updated just follow here or drop me an email here. Photo credit — Paul Reynolds