Nightclubs have always been a central part of nightlife, particularly for those in university. Before the pandemic, a night out on the town would often end in the same way – dancing with friends on the sticky nightclub floor into the early hours of the morning.
For a long while after restrictions eased, this was not the case. This led to a declining nightlife industry across the country that lasted long after other industries managed to get back onto their feet. A solution to this problem, which will be going ahead in the near future, is to allow nightclubs to extend their opening hours. This would be a good solution for the industry.
However, this decision may go in the face of an effort that the Irish government has been making to reduce binge drinking. Since 2018, several acts have been signed into law to “reduce alcohol consumption and limit the damage to the nation’s health, society and economy”, according to gov.ie.
Since nightclubs are often hubs for drinking, it raises the question of whether or not it would be the best idea to let nightclubs extend their opening hours. It would be rather contradictory, in fact, for the government to support this if their long-term goal is to reduce alcohol consumption.
On the other hand, denying nightclubs the option to extend their hours and recuperate their losses will not do good on the government’s goal to help the nightlife industry. This creates a tricky dilemma – if the government decides not to go ahead with the decision to let nightclubs open for longer, what can they do instead to help the industry recover?
The only option that could be feasible in the near future would be to develop other activities to do late at night. One thing that could be done, in terms of a possible replacement for the nightclub, is to provide another place for people to go in the late hours of the night and/or the early hours of the morning, somewhere that was not a bar or a club serving alcohol. There are many students, for example, who would like to stay out later into the night but do not wish to partake in the drinking or partying scene.
This is not to say that nightclubs are so bad, but rather to highlight that there is much more that people want to do instead of going to the bar or the nightclub at night. I have had many conversations with classmates where we discussed how nice it would be if there was a coffee shop, internet café or something similar that was safe, warm, and open after 9pm.
Sometimes people want a place to dance the night away, but other times all people want is a space in which to hang out and socialise with friends. If there was something like this in the city then the government would be able to continue their efforts to regulate alcohol usage, and the nightlife industry would have another avenue to use to recover.
While nightclubs extending their opening hours may be the simplest solution to an economic problem, it is probably not the best one for the long term. If the government wants to reduce the use of alcohol, they will need to work with those in the nightlife industry to develop other options for night-time recreational activities outside of those that revolve around drinking.
There are many people who would partake in other safer activities, or use the alternative spaces I describe above, if they were available to them. The ball’s in the government’s court.