Campaigners are calling for major reform of Ireland’s night-time culture and economy after the COVID-19 crisis recedes.
The 'Give Us The Night' group has published a nine-point plan for a “vibrant and sustainable night-time economy in Ireland.”
The plan calls for changes to opening hours, the establishment of a national task-force and an increase in State supports for youth culture.
It comes after the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ruled out a suspension of VAT for the hospitality sector – but said the next government could consider a reduction.
The group said rescue packages will be needed to save many of the country’s hospitality and entertainment businesses – but warned that there are many other actions needed to safeguard the nightlife of the country’s towns and cities.
“In addition to the adjustments needed on VAT, excise duty and commercial rates, there are other actions that will need to be taken to not only save the industry, but to stimulate and revolutionise its economy in the long-term,” the group said in a statement.
It called on all the main political parties to honour their pre-election promises to reform and modernise the night-time economy.
Our 9-point plan to help steer the night-time economy and events sector through these difficult times. Read through the thread for each point or directly to full thing here https://t.co/HMt3ZZ7yQf #giveusthenight pic.twitter.com/49A4PRHxhW
— Give Us The Night (@GiveUsTheNight) May 7, 2020
Their nine-point plan includes:
- Establishing a National Task Force
The group would be made up of stakeholders in all sectors of Irish nightlife and would be tasked with “devising a plan that will aid a short-term economic recovery and strengthen the industry as it steps forward to a new era.”
- Stakeholder workshops
Online meetings between local stakeholders and city and county councils aimed at highlighting the issues ahead for the industry.
The workshops would produce reports to be considered by the National Task Force as it drafts a framework for reopening the night-time economy.
- Amend trading hours
The group is calling for plans to introduce staggered working hours to be applied to hospitality and entertainment spaces.
It said the UK model, which allows establishments to set their own specific opening hours with management of licencing decisions handed to local authorities, would be one option.
Another option would be to set a staggered closing time system pubs, restaurants, late bars and night venues closing at different times.
- Modernisation of venue licensing
The group is calling for the retraction of the current “costly and over-restrictive” licensing laws and replacing them with one new bill codifying all venue licensing laws.
It said this should coincide with a new “more straightforward online applications system for all event and venue licences.
- An end to special exemption orders
As things stand, any venue that wants to open after normal pub hours has to pat €410 per night, regardless of how big they are.
The group noted that the system will be unmanageable for small and mid-sized venues in the months ahead and called for the cost to be removed to encourage more night-time trading and employment.
- Filling the festival void
Warning that large-scale festivals will be the last type of event to return as restrictions are removed, the group is calling for smaller events in cities, suburbs and rural villages to be supported.
They note that artists, performers and all the companies that work behind the scenes take in a significant portion of their income from live events.
With international tourism numbers on the floor, the introduction of new local events could encourage staycation tourism and go some way to supporting those who rely on the event circuit for their income.
- Supporting youth culture
The group warns that the lack of a specific strategy for youth culture at night has failed Ireland’s young population.
It calls on the State to recognise the rapid growth of urban and electronic music and to put in place the supports to ensure that suitable venues can continue operating in towns and cities.
- Pop-up events and multi-use spaces
Support the temporary use of buildings and public spaces for pop-up events. The group said the creation of a personal temporary event licence could encourage the quick and positive use of unused spaces by creative communities.
- State support for night culture
The group is calling for cultural institutions, funded arts centres and theatres to be more accessible to a greater range of events and local collectives.
It is calling for the concept of Culture Night to be expanded into a more regular programme of event spread throughout the year.