Home > Seanad Éireann debate. Night-time economy: Motion.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Éireann debate. Night-time economy: Motion. (13 Jul 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad...

Senator Fintan Warfield: I move:

That Seanad Éireann: welcomes:

  • the Report of the Night-Time Economy Taskforce published in September 2021;
  • the Programme for Government commitment to reform licensing laws, application processes and to conduct a full review of policies governing night-time culture;


  • 'Give Us The Night' and all campaigners advocating for positive changes to nightlife in Ireland;
  • recognises that:
  • there has been a failure to sufficiently update licensing laws;
  • night-life and night-time entertainment in cities and towns is under severe threat;
  • - roperty costs, prohibitive insurance premiums, restrictive licensing laws and associated fees have a crippling effect on businesses and cultural activity;
  • of the 522 nightclubs in operation in the year 2000, only 85 remain;
  • the policy focus relating to nightlife and the night-time economy has revolved solely around alcohol rather than the holistic, community and societal benefits of night-time culture;
  • night-life is about communities and culture, for people of all ages, those who consume alcohol and those who don't;
  • public transport and taxi services are essential components of the night-time economy;
  • since 2019, 2,562 taxis have been lost from the transport system with the resulting shortage of taxis now impacting the night-time economy;

notes that:

  • night-life and the night-time economy are vital to the growth and development of the arts and culture sector;
  • existing licensing laws prevent not-for-profit arts centres, cultural buildings, theatres and galleries from diversifying their programming and income streams and deny greater employment opportunities to artists and arts workers and valuable cultural offerings to audiences and local communities;

further notes:

  • the workers' rights issues that exist in the night-time economy, including unpaid wages, lack of collective bargaining, the denial of legal breaks and an expectation that workers perform duties unpaid, such as cleaning-up after closing;

calls for:

  • the update and modernisation of licensing laws and costs;
  • the reform of trading hours;
  • a new annual nightclub licence;
  • an end to early closing on Sundays;
  • the abolition of Special Exemption Orders;
  • greater access to the night-time market for arts centres, theatres and galleries with an appropriate licence renewed annually;
  • the increased use of the National Cultural Institutions Licence;
  • a new licence for not-for-profits, including for one-off events;
  • greater use of existing State-owned indoor and outdoor spaces, including cultural buildings and heritage sites for entertainment and events;
  • new locations and districts to be identified where nightlife can thrive;
  • a scheme to support late night entertainment in cafés and more options for alcohol-free events;
  • licences to be moved to a new online portal that would connect stakeholders, including the Courts Service, An Garda Síochána, Local Authorities and Fire Officers;
  • new models of consultation and innovative measures that mitigate adverse effects of nightlife on local residents;
  • the provision of premium pay for staff working beyond 11.30 p.m;
  • the granting and renewal of a licence to be contingent on compliance with employment law and the name of the employer and premises to be published where breaches of employment law occur;
  • the increased roll out of 24-hour bus routes in Dublin city, extended operating hours for Luas and DART and an extension of the ten-year rule for taxis;
  • increased harm reduction interventions and initiatives in the night-time economy to build on recent HSE campaigns.

I am sharing time with Senator Boylan.

An Cathaoirleach Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Fintan Warfield: I welcome the Minister. I also welcome our guests in the Public Gallery. They have been patiently waiting for this debate to begin and I hope that it lives up to their expectations.

Nightlife and the night-time economy are under a severe threat in our towns and cities. Rising property costs, rip-off insurance, extortionate licensing fees and archaic licensing are crippling business and cultural activity. We acknowledge the work that the Government has done in terms of the night-time economy task force. We also acknowledge the campaigners who put hundreds of hours of work into this issue for decades until it reached the point of the Government taking it seriously enough to set up a task force. All of that said, we call on the Government to reform licensing laws and fees and implement the raft of more than 30 actions that the task force recommended to it as soon as possible.

I would not have the knowledge of this issue that I do without campaigns like Give Us The Night and campaigners like Mr. Robbie Kitt and Mr. Sunil Sharpe, although I do not know if they will thank them for mentioning them. There are hundreds of campaigners. In 2019, a call went out for a public meeting at the Sugar Club and more than 500 people attended that night. Young, middle-aged and old, they came from all backgrounds and were representative of the nightlife industry. They were the people you would meet in a nightclub's queue or smoking area or on the dance floor. They were there to share their ideas about what nightlife in this country should look like and how their country could live up to its reputation for music, song and dance. I would not have my current level of knowledge about this area without them. Every day is a school day and I am continually learning, with their help. The Minister probably feels the same way, and the night-time economy task force is probably informed by the ideas that were raised at the Sugar Club that night.

The review of the Sale of Alcohol Bill undertaken by the Minister's Department experienced one of the highest levels of submissions of any legislation under the remit of the Department of Justice. I believe there were 5,000 submissions. There is a demand, so we are calling on the Government to publish its legislation. We cannot fall into the same trap that we have fallen into over many years of telling the industry to wait. There were 522 nightclubs in this country in 2000, but only 85 are left now. That is an alarming loss of cultural space, music venues and nightclubs. With them go jobs for musicians, sound engineers, lighting designers, bouncers and hospitality staff. I see young people, including some of my oldest friends, choosing to move away because the type of career they have engaged in from job to job does not support their survival in Dublin. They are going to Berlin or Glasgow to pursue their trade. This country rolls out the red carpet for technology and innovation, but not for young artists and collectives that want to put on nights or events. We need to do better.

In referencing art centres and theatres in the motion, I am making a specific point about this time of the day being important to the arts and culture sector. Existing licensing laws prevent not-for-profit art centres, theatres and galleries from diversifying their programming and income streams, thus denying artists and arts workers greater opportunities and denying audiences and communities valuable cultural experiences.

Many young entrepreneurs are opening cafes and getting into hospitality that way, but no new night-time venues have opened in the past decade. It is no longer sustainable for us to prohibit young business people who want to open such venues. There is a lack of licences, each of which can cost between €40,000 to €60,000 on the open market. It was never intended for licences to be bought and sold on the open market and fluctuate in price. People should get licences from the State at a reasonable cost. Young business people should be allowed access to them.

For years, I have been attending a club in Dublin on Sunday nights. Recently, the operator said that enough was enough and that it was no longer sustainable to pay €400 plus in special exemption orders to open for just two hours each Sunday night until 1 a.m. This is a European city, yet we close everything down at 1 a.m. on a Sunday night. The people who go out on Sunday nights are hospitality workers, barbers and hairdressers, the people we applauded in recent years. That is their night out, but we shut it down at 1 a.m.

The Minister is working on these issues and we are tabling this motion in good faith. I am disappointed by some of the elements of the amendment, for example, the removal of the reference to workers' rights.

Our team will deal with some of those issues. I am disappointed the arts references were taken out.

However, I welcome the fact that the Government Senators are calling on the Government to enact a new sale of alcohol Bill as soon as possible to ensure that we have a modern fit for purposes alcohol licensing law. I regret that the policy focus around the issue around night life and the night-time economy can often revolve solely around alcohol and ignores the holistic, community and societal benefits of night-time culture during which we meet people from all backgrounds, like I mentioned. Magic happens in the night and you would talk to people you would never talk to in the middle of the day. I was at an Iveagh Gardens gig and there was a noticeable difference in the energy as the sun went down. The energy and magic of the night is what this city is lacking.

The city is lacking many things at the moment and it is not working as it should. However, these are simple things that after 20 years we need to now get right. The problems have been called out and the solutions provided by campaigners. The night-time economy task force fleshed those out. It is an important piece of work that we welcome.

We welcome the programme for Government commitment for action. We need to get this over the line now. I know the Minister is up for that. I hope tonight she might be able to give a us a timeline of when we will see a general scheme. I know she has made a commitment that we will have legislation this year. I do not want it go past Christmas.

Another thing is that we need interim budgetary measures. It is great that we waived court fees during the pandemic and I think we need to do that again until we implement legislative change. I hope the Minister can give timelines on when the Government hopes to publish the general scheme, when the committee will get through it and when we will have a Bill on the books in this State. I thank the Minister for coming to the House....

[For the full debate, click on this link to the Oireachtas website]

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