Do not go gentle into that good night… What Ireland’s nightclub industry does next
Last weekend saw the closing of another ‘institution’ of Irish clubland – the Tivoli Theatre in Dublin – with a lineup featuring the best of Irish and international talent.
Techno maestro Sunil Sharpe ended the night with a tune that summed up the exuberance of the evening… old school classic Perfect Day by Visions of Shiva.
For many, however, the closure of yet another classic venue is tinged with sadness, and inevitably raises questions about the future health of the Irish nightclub industry, and night-time economy at large.
909originals caught up with a few industry heads to get their take on what Irish clubland does next.
Eddie Reynolds, TR One
“First and foremost, the government needs to look after nightlife and realise how important to the economy it is.
“We need to extend opening hours in nightclubs to match mainland Europe and the UK. This will give venues and nights the chance to grow artistically and economically, and create a self sustaining industry. It’s a no brainer and we need to vote with our feet.
“The electronic music scene is stronger than ever in this country, and instead of promoting art we hinder it.”
Cian Ó Cíobháin, 110th Street
“The bottom line is it’s all about profit and loss. Business folk will invest money in projects that they are confident that they can profit from. Clubs and venues are closing because the conditions aren’t attractive for them to thrive right now. Why invest your money in clubs or venues when you can better return elsewhere?
“But it doesn’t have to be like this.
“We need a national re-think on the way that ‘clubs’ are regarded and defined in this country: in our legislators’ minds and for most people of a certain age, they’re regarded as pretty much the same as late night bars.
“Our licensing laws which are embarrassingly out of sync with the rest of modern European culture is one of the main reasons that venues are closing and that business people aren’t willing to invest in the current clubbing model.
“I’m not talking about instantly going all-out Berlin Bacchanalia, but if you have defined places where people can go and dance until, say, 5am at the weekends, already you have a clear distinction between late night bars and clubs.
“But you need political will, which will only come about through organised people power, as was evident in the recent success stories of removing the Eighth Amendment from our constitution and extending civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. It has to be organised and clearly thought through to convince most people that creating a thriving clubbing culture in Ireland is a good thing.”
Greg Dowling, FishGoDeep
“It’s not economically viable to keep a lot of clubs going these days. Every time you open the doors, you spend more than €400 on a special exemption order, not to mention all the insurance costs, staff costs, lighting etc. That’s a lot of money, and that I feel is at the heart of the difficulties clubs are facing. Until we can get the legislators and people involved in making the laws that clubbing is of cultural importance, things aren’t going to change.
“I think Give Us The Night have a very strong manifesto focused on raising awareness of nighttime culture, and the value of it to the economy. If a vibrant city has fantastic nightlife, people will come just for that.
“I remember back in the 90s when we were doing Sir Henry’s, there were bus loads of people coming from all over the country, and it had a knock-on effect on the actual economy.
“Cork went through a terrible time a few years ago, there were very few venues to go to, but now you have places like Dali and Cyprus Avenue – good quality venues with world class PAs. But at the end of the day, they still have to close at 2.30am, and compete with late bars. If you were in Lisbon, or Amsterdam or other European cities, you might only be going out to the club at 2.30am.
“I’m 30-odd years hearing the same story, and every now and again you think something will change, but it doesn’t. I think at the heart of it, there’s a need for a lobbying group to convince the government that this is an industry of cultural significance. I think theres still this thinking out there that nightclubs are just full of a load of people getting pissed. But in reality, the nighttime economy is an important part of the economy at large.”
“One of the key issues is the urgent need for the liberalisation of the licensing laws. We were promised this and a ‘café society’ during the Celtic Tiger era by the PDs, then Fianna Fáil gave in to the publicans’ lobby and we ended up with the even more restrictive Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008.
“We need to follow Berlin, Amsterdam and London’s lead. London’s first 24-hour license was granted to a club in 1990. We are almost 30 years behind the curve.”
“We believe that Dublin is already severely in need of more clubs. With major clubs closing down, this is actually taking away from the culture in a huge way.
“The government allowing people to get rid of clubs for hotels or other ventures will eventually be shooting themselves in the foot.
“Yeah, you’ll have a nice room to sleep in, but what else will you be able to do, other than go to a pub in Temple Bar and get ripped off for a pint of plain?”
“I would remove all the different types of late licensing laws, and provide any place (restaurant, bar or club) a 12 hour opening license (ie 11 pm to 11 am etc.)
“Secondly, property prices have decimated the medium to larger sized clubs in Dublin city centre. I remember in the 90’s you had the choice of three techno clubs on a TUESDAY alone.
“There is still stuff happening, but very few dedicated club venues with regular nights encompassing a variety of genres like hip hop/bass/techno/house etc under one roof, with a dedicated sound system geared to a club experience.
“I’m not sure if the decline is terminal or what can save it, perhaps a few venue owners with a bit of vision or commitment will try something out. The problem isn’t just with club nights, but live music as well has taken a serious hit, with small bands having little chance to play out.
“That being said, I’m sure there are things bubbling under, where a next generation of DJ’s will get the chance to play exciting new music to an up for it crowd.”
[Kudos to Phever.ie for the footage from the last night of the Tivoli Theatre]