Give Us The Night got a lot of publicity when it launched but lately it has stepped up its campaign significantly, publishing a new manifesto and holding public meetings in various cities including Cork.
It is an independent volunteer group of professionals working within the night-time industry who aim to highlight the contribution of the night-time industry to culture, community, and the economy here, and to raise the quality of nightlife to international standards.
This comes on the back of a study in Berlin which found that club tourism brought in €1.5bn to the city every year! It’s a remarkable figure boosted by the amount of Irish music fans who go clubbing in Berlin every weekend, but there’s no real reason why Irish cities can’t themselves take advantage of this night-time economy.
Give Us The Night aims to create debate and discussion about the licensing laws here, which are pretty archaic, often dating from decades ago and a very different cultural environment. It aims to influence legislative changes that lead to a more vibrant and profitable night-time industry, but also a safer one.
At the recent meeting in Cork I was one of the speakers and I argued that our licensing laws are counter-productive in many ways and cause more problems than they solve. Binge drinking is directly encouraged by people always lashing down alcohol at home or shots at the bar in the constant rush to get to the club on time. In clubs and bars it’s the same thing, and everything in Ireland seems to happen within a tiny window of madness on, say, a Saturday night, between midnight and 2am.
People are rushing down drink and whatever else as quickly as possible during this small window of danger, and as the clubs all close pretty much at the time afterwards, everyone then hits the streets at the time before they search for the next part of the night, which can be a house party or whatever else. The streets are pretty messy between 2am and 4am and people can’t get taxis, plus the few food places which stay open are really busy and often end up housing flashpoints and other problems that result from overcrowding.
What happens in the house parties afterwards is another issue that would tend to support the calls for licenced venues with trained security to be able to open longer and many taxi drivers, restaurants, gardaí, and others would back the claims that the small 2am-4am zone which is currently operating ends up bringing more trouble than it’s worth.
My own experience in England and elsewhere, where clubs open later, tells me that many people still leave these venues early anyway but it leads to a much smoother transition from club to fast-food restaurant to taxi or bus after if people leave at different times. The already under-pressure hospitals and the gardaí certainly don’t need extra hassle at this time.
Opening late will cost venues extra and they will also have to pay for extra security so not all venues will want to do this. But even licensing some will take the heat off the city and encourage a safer and more tolerable city centre late at night.
The ongoing discussion about making Cork City more vibrant at night generally ignores the night-time trade but it’s a very important component in attracting people to a so-called city rising. Most of the young workforce who spend their money are left bemused when they are told music stops at 2am. As a proud European city, it’s crazy that Cork has to shut earlier than many of our continental peers which we aspire to be among in 2019. It’s embarrassing having to explain to tourists at 2am that they have to go home, when many of them are used to just getting started at that time.
What happens next should be interesting. Give Us The Night has had positive talks with a number of high-profile politicians recently and is encouraging people to join the campaign and open the dialogue further. Hopefully in Cork and Ireland, we will be able to finally operate on a level playing field to other progressive European cities and open a little later than now.