Ireland’s licensing laws won’t be changed before summer 2024, Taoiseach says

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that the proposed changes to Irish licensing laws that will enable nightclubs to open later won’t happen this year.

It has now been nine months since the Irish government announced changes to the licensing laws in Ireland that would herald pubs opening later, the possibility of nightclubs opening til 6am, modernised bills, abolishment of exemption orders, cultural licences and night-time advisors.

While some of the recommendations of the Night-Time Economy Taskforce report are happening, the night-time advisors are coming on stream in nine cities and towns of Ireland at the moment, and noise reduction & late night cultural space funds were recently announced, don’t expect any of the major changes in licensing laws to happen this year, as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed this week.

The legislative changes proposed by Justice Minister Helen McEntee were originally due to be enacted this year, but Varadkar confirmed that wouldn’t be happening in 2023, and likely won’t be enacted until summer 2024.

“I think it unlikely it will be the case for Christmas,” Varadkar told journalists earlier this week. “That would mean getting the legislation published and enacted before Christmas. Even when it’s enacted, there’s a whole licensing system that has to be gone through. I can say it will not be the case that those laws will be in place for this Christmas. But I would hope they can be in place for next summer.

“So I would say… I can say, it would not be the case that those laws will be in place for this Christmas. But I would hope they can be in place for next summer.

“And again, it’s something I discussed with Minister McEntee and the Attorney General (Rossa Fanning) only in the last couple of days, and they’re trying to put some additional resources behind that Bill and to get it done so we can have a later summer next summer.”

Representative of nightlife group Give Us The Night, Sunil Sharpe told Virgin Media that “we believe the laws could be in place before the end of the year if the government wanted to prioritise it. But what they can do in the short term is get rid of exemption order costs.”

Special exemption orders or SEOs are an archaic €410 per night fee that nightclubs have to pay along with an appointed lawyer fee for a court appearance. When things reopened in 2021, those fees were waived by the government due to the pandemic but they were reintroduced at half fee in April 2022, despite the government’s stated intention to abolish them.

Last February, Give Us The Night said that four out of five nightclubs in Ireland that were open at the turn of the millennium have since shut down.

Robbie Kitt, also of Give Us The Night and a Dublin-based DJ and producer expressed his frustration eloquently too on Instagram recently .

Kitt also told Resident Advisor:

“The frustration here is that the government have been engaged in an extensive process of consultation on this bill since it formed in 2020. These are moderate reforms that barely bring us line with our European counterparts. We’re trying to overturn incredibly archaic laws like the Public Dance Halls Act, a piece of legislation introduced in the 1930s on the back of fears of the Catholic Church regarding the sexual behaviour of young people. Despite all the work that’s gone in to this, it’s depressing to see the approach to changing rules which entirely restrict the social capacity of people in this country being regarded with the same fear and inaction.”

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