A study of the licensed trade has found 130 clubs have closed their doors for good in the last three years.
Barry O’Sullivan, chief executive of the Irish Nightclub Industry Association (INIA), claimed the closures have resulted in 600 job losses and more could follow.
“Knowing our industry and thanks to the survey that’s about 2,500 part-time jobs in reality,” he said.
The licence fee, which rose two years ago from €200 to €410 per night, is killing the industry and hitting employment, said Mr O’Sullivan.
The former boss of Club M in Dublin’s Temple Bar said that unless the price of special exemption orders is cut, dozens more nightclubs will close, further damaging local employment.
The INIA said the number of nightclubs dropped from 430 to 300 in the three years to 2010 and the loss to business has been estimated at €54 million.
The figures were revealed on the back of an Aviva Health Insurance survey, which found Irish drinkers are spending about €2,000 a year on alcohol.
The INIA will meet Justice Minister Alan Shatter in June to put the case for a cut in fees.
Calling on the Government to slash the €410 nightclubs are charged for every night they stay open late, Mr O’Sullivan said: “The feedback from backbenchers is that they are in the mood for positive change — if it makes sense and it’s logical and if there’s a good argument for job retention they will look at it. I think we tick all those boxes.”
The INIA report, put together by Anthony Foley of Dublin City University’s business school, also found that nightclubs were open for an average of 4.2 nights a week in 2007 but that this dropped to just 2.7 nights last year.
Paul Montgomery, the owner of three late bars and nightclubs in Cork city, echoed Mr O’Sullivan’s concerns for the future of the industry.
“We already have to deal with a change in drinking patterns, where people are drinking at home or in their friends’ apartments and coming out late, so the increase in the late-night fee was very unfair,” he said.
“As well as that, we are already competing with off-licences and supermarkets selling drink at below cost.
“Late-night venues are cutting back or closing down and that is no good for the tourist industry, either.
“Ireland is known worldwide for our pubs and social venues and attracts a lot of visitors for that reason, so putting obstacles in the way of those who run them makes no sense whatsoever.”