Ireland’s Battle: For Equal Opportunities & Opening Hours in the Nightlife Industry
Kevin Murtagh


It has not always been straightforward and smooth sailing within the Irish clubbing industry sad to say. As a committed Irish DJ, music production & events student and dedicated clubber, the industry which I and so many more people love, is being decimated at an unholy rate. In 2008, the industry took a turn for the worst when the Intoxicating Liquor Act did away with the opportunity for clubs to continue to stay open later than 3 am, which is an entire world away compared to some of our mainland neighbours. Since then, the Irish nightlife industry has almost ceased to exist, with many locations and spaces being sadly taken over and redeveloped into the likes of hotels and apartment blocks.

One of Dublin’s and indeed one of Ireland’s main and most popular night time spaces was, unfortunately, the victim of this continuous gentrification within the city in early 2019. District 8 to many, including myself was a home, an institution, and a way of life. It was a space which brought so many people together and created so many good times and memories, all bound together by one common denominator, underground electronic music. Built-in the 1930s, the Tivoli Theatre in Dublin City has hosted its fair share of events and nights over the years but in 2014, space was acquired by the District 8 team who ever since had been committed to providing quality entertainment and had succeeded very well in doing so. To the dismay of many, clubbers, DJs and promoters alike, the Tivoli and surrounding buildings have since been levelled and the redevelopment has begun in the form of a 260-bedroom aparthotel. The development will also include retail units, restaurants and a new cultural theatre, in what will be known as Tivoli Square. It is sorely missed and will continue to be. To take a positive from the situation, the District 8 team have now relocated to a bright, modern space in Jam Park on Dublin’s northside where they will continue the brand. Along with the closure of ‘The Hangar’, another central clubbing venue lost to gentrification, Dublin City no longer has a large capacity electronic music dance venue, which has added to the ever-growing list of damages to the nightlife in the city.

In a report by the Irish Nightclub Industry Association (INIA), it says that there is no such thing as a nightclub in Irish licensing legislation and that regulations regarding nightclubs come under the ‘Public Dance Halls Act 1935’ which is a clear contradiction and indicator that we are living in the past. These laws were brought in under recommendation of the catholic church in the 1930s to outlaw dancing and ‘immoral’ behaviour at parties, a recommendation which has stood the test of time. This is not an immoral industry but an industry which has been proven to help the economy to the tune of hundreds of millions every year and supply thousands of yearly jobs is being left to rot. Unlike the scene in Germany, which is thriving and setting the benchmark for many other countries in Europe and the world.

When you think of nightlife, clubbing, dancing, and underground electronic music (specifically techno). There is only one place that comes to mind, Berlin. It is a mecca for our scene, our culture, our music, and it is one place that I wish the Irish system would take some inspiration from. Irish nightclubs and late establishments cannot open past 3 am, but the law in Germany says otherwise. Clubs such as the infamous Berghain take full advantage, opening on a Friday evening and not closing until the following Monday. Recently, in a legal case within a financial high court in Munich, several parties including representatives of the Berghain club, argued that techno is music and that nightclubs should receive tax breaks which would reduce the level of tax these clubs were paying from 19% down to just 7%, to be in line with venues such as concert halls. Long story short, they won.  An inspiring victory for the underground.

In 2020, in an announcement by Catherine Martin, Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts & Culture, A task force was set up to develop a “vibrant and sustainable” night-time culture within Ireland, featuring many prominent figures within the scene, also including the Lord Mayor of both Dublin & Cork City. Also contributing will be the prominent group Give us the Night, a group set up to campaign for reform of late-night venue licensing laws here in Ireland. Taken from their website  ‘Give Us The Night is an independent volunteer group of professionals operating within the night-time industry, campaigning for positive changes to nightlife in Ireland, with particular regard to music venues. We endeavour to highlight the contribution of the nighttime industry to culture, community and the economy in Ireland, and to raise the quality of nightlife to international standards. Our ongoing aim is to create debate and discussion about the licensing laws in Ireland to influence legislative changes that lead to a more vibrant and profitable nighttime industry’.

They have done much-needed work through media campaigns, meetings with government figures to get where they are today. we are lucky to have such great spokespeople for our scene, such as renowned Dublin techno DJ Sunil Sharpe, a leading figure for the ‘Give Us The Night’. In an interview by Sunil in 2019, he tells that “There is a distinct feeling that not everyone’s nightlife preferences are being catered for, and that the creativity and vibrancy of the Dublin scene are disappearing”, which is a sad truth. But with people like Sunil as our voice and ambassador, the only way is up.