Nightclub owners seek special opening hour permits

NIGHTCLUB owners are seeking amended legislation to allow for special opening hour permits which would help create 1,600 full-time jobs and pump €95 million into the economy.

Staggered closing times, increased security and better entertainment would all lead to a fall in public order offences, the new proposals claim.

Launching the proposed regulation for the industry yesterday, Irish Nightclub Industry Association chief Barry O’Sullivan said clubs were being crippled by antiquated and arbitrary rules which meant applying to individual courts to stay open late.

“It’s almost death by geography according to the district court judges [sitting] around the country,” he said.

The association’s report compared nightclubs across 10 EU capitals and found Ireland is governed by some of the most restrictive licensing rules in Europe.

At present, clubs operate under legislation that determines pubs or hotel licences.

In addition, nightclubs must apply for dance licences and when they want to stay open late, have to apply for a further special exemption at the courts.

“The whole system is very cumbersome, antiquated and exceptionally costly.

“In short, it is now costing jobs,” said the association’s chief.

The industry’s body estimates 10% of the country’s 300-plus clubs have closed since legislation was introduced last year to restrict opening hours.

The association wants the forthcoming Sale of Alcohol Bill to include the introduction of a nightclub permit.

Owners want extensions for clubs in Dublin until 4am to help stagger times patrons emerge onto the streets.

Club owners yesterday claimed Central Statistic Office figures showed parts of south Dublin – where late opening hours had been in operation – experienced nearly a 30% reduction in alcohol-related crime compared to other parts of the country in previous years.

Owners say if the new permit is sanctioned, they will agree to have one security camera for every 30 patrons, as well as at least one security guard for every 100 people.

Nightclubs currently operating seven nights a week with special court extensions are having to foot an extra €150,000 and an additional €10,000 in legal fees on top, Mr O’Sullivan pointed out.

The permit could help reduce costs and ultimately help employ an extra 1,600 people in full-time jobs.

An extra €95 million a year would also be pumped into the economy with the changed rules, the proposals suggest.

The Department of Justice said last night it could not comment on what was in the bill which was still being drafted.

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