Nightlife was one of the few things that could not be “reinvented” during the several pandemic lockdowns: a late club or a dancing venue simply cannot be brought online as a class or a business meeting can, and nightclubs did not have the opportunity to deliver their services and products to people’s houses, as many shops, restaurants and pubs could do. The definitive closure of nightlife businesses, as occurred to almost every nightclub in Galway, was a very natural consequence of over six hundred days without work.
What about the effects on youth culture? A change in nightlife preferences and trends would not be so odd considering that during Covid, things like spending the entire day at home, respecting a “curfew” and avoiding crowded places became the norm, along with virtual relationships and gatherings. But it could also work the opposite way: because they felt like they have missed almost two years of dancing together with hundreds of people and staying up until the late a.m., young people may want to experience that even more than before and to have again the option to live nightlife at its utmost.
When asked about places they like and would more often go to, students from the University of Galway expressed indeed their preference for music-related events. Open-mic nights, karaoke, live music sessions, and dancing parties: initiatives that at the moment are being set up by pubs and late bars in Galway. When it comes to dancing, though, it is quite inconvenient to always do it in the narrow, overcrowded hallways of pubs and bars: kind of a paradox given the health and safety reasons why nightclubs had to shut down.
Former resident DJ at Electric nightclub Paul Belton has spoken to SIN about the situation: “Nightlife has changed drastically. We are lacking a venue to host big-scale events. The industry in the West of Ireland has taken a severe hit. We are all music heads here and it’s a real shame that we don’t have the space for it,” he said, explaining that now he mainly plays his own music in other counties’ festivals, far from Galway. However, he said some positive steps are being taken.
“There are a few collectives in Galway that are throwing house and techno nights in venues such as The Loft and The Cellar, as well as booking international artists to play.”
The University of Galway bar Sult is also playing an important part in that, arranging karaoke nights, Latin dance nights, and such events in a spacious venue, with the important aim of making the international students feel involved during their first weeks in Galway.
The issue of nightlife in Galway also became part of the public debate in March 2022, when it seemed likely that DNA, the only nightclub left in Galway, would close as well. Concerned by the rumours, that were then shut down from DNA owners speaking to Galway Beo, Social Democrat Councillor Owen Haley took a stand on his Facebook page: “It’s beyond time we take our night-time culture seriously. We attract students and young workers from all over Ireland and Europe, but they aren’t just looking for good colleges and good jobs. They want a full life. The Council must hire a staff member that can proactively lead and support the night-time sector.”