Nightclubs will return with 100% capacity while customers will once again be able to order at the bar, according to new guidelines for the hospitality sector.
Industry representatives were briefed by officials on the new guidelines on Thursday evening, hours before the easing of Covid-19 restrictions announced by the Government this week were due to take effect.
On Thursday evening, Culture Minister Catherine Martin confirmed that nightclubs will be able to return with 100% capacity.
She said that live entertainment venues will be permitted to have 1,500 people standing, under the updated guidelines.
She also said that customers will be able to queue, in a socially distanced manner, at the bar.
The measures, which includes extended opening hours beyond 11.30pm, are set to be reviewed in the coming weeks.
Ms Martin said that the measures were important to support an industry that had been closed since March 2020, while also keeping in mind public health guidelines.
“This is a sector that has been closed since March of last year.
“We want it now that it’s open to remain open,” she told reporters on Thursday evening.
She called on the hospitality industry to “show leadership” and to follow the new rules.
There had been questions earlier this week about whether some of the rules for nightclubs were workable and the fact that the wearing of face masks is not required for anyone drinking or dancing.
She acknowledged that devising the guidelines had not been an easy process, but insisted that they were workable.
Ms Martin told reporters: “It is so complex to strike that balance. We’ve been working on it for the past 72 hours and we didn’t want to go into those meetings unless we had those key issues addressed.
“The Nphet letter arrived late Monday night, the three leaders met and we had to go straight into negotiations after Cabinet on Tuesday with the industry.”
Speaking in Cork earlier on Thursday, Labour leader Alan Kelly had said while he was in agreement with the Government’s decision to press pause on a full reopening of society, the lack of communication with the night-time and live entertainment sector had been “bananas”.
Speaking to The Echo during a visit to Cork, Mr Kelly branded the lack of communication with the night-time and live entertainment sector “ridiculous”.
“Not going with the full reopening for me is probably, on balance, the right decision.
“However – and this is a big however – the issues relating to the live entertainment industry, going off and making an announcement without practically consulting with them beforehand was, for me, bananas. It was ridiculous,” he said.
“The idea that you’re in a pub until 11:30pm where you can sit down and be served at a table but then you can get up and dance at 11:30pm because it’s got a late licence… It shows a level of not knowing how the real world works. It’s not natural.
“For me as regards the new regulations that are being brought in they have to be practical. They have to be natural.
“My belief is that the issues with our vaccine passes, that has to be implemented 100% and if that is implemented 100% plus, an issue which I think goes under the radar all the time, proper ventilation, well then actually the micromanagement of what’s going on inside, who’s dancing where, who’s doing whatever in a nightclub, becomes less of an issue.”