Stevie G: A great nightclub closes, and more will follow

The few nightclubs that are left will now have to wait until 2022 to reopen and some are unlikely to make it, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Stevie G: A great nightclub closes, and more will follow

Electric/Halo nightclub in Galway has closed; sadly, more clubs are likely to shut down in the coming months.

The closure of the Electric/Halo nightclub in Galway last week is another blow for the nighttime industry in Ireland, which has been decimated these last few years.

In a statement, the owners said they couldn’t wait any longer, having completed “over six hundred days of complete closure, lost revenue, unpaid bills and reopening dates that never materialised”.

A few days later, the government here decided to once again close nightclubs when ushering in new restrictions, and the few nightclubs that are left will now have to wait until 2022 to reopen. Some of them are unlikely to make it that far.

The situation in Galway is fairly grim, and it’s been echoed throughout the country. Irish nightclubs have been effectively closed for 18 months and only managed to open for a few days in October before things changed again. After the first weekend of reopening, it was quickly decided that tickets would need to be bought in advance for any late night events. This proposal was impractical and unworkable for many, though some venues did try to implement the new system, at their own expense too. The few nightclubs that are open in Ireland were thus ready for business, and looked forward to at least a busy Christmas.

Then, suddenly, the rules changed again. Increasing Covid numbers were again linked to the nightclubs, despite the overwhelming evidence that they were coming from schools, and clubs were suddenly asked to close at midnight. This was again a pretty unworkable rule that all but closed most clubs here, but still a few clubs persisted, and did their best to run events and plan events despite these huge restrictions. At least it couldn’t get worse, and at least they could still operate for a few weeks in December. Wrong.

Another announcement came last Friday, and this time nightclubs simply have to close for the month. The restrictions, lasting till early January, will wipe out this Christmas and you’d probably be forgiven for thinking it won’t be the last of them either. More clubs will follow Electric and Halo and shut down. You’d have to wonder, what was the point of the big pilot event in the Button Factory a couple of months ago? The nighttime industry has obeyed all guidelines and run events responsibly, and it has also called for testing and other measures, which have run successfully abroad. Nearly every one of our music industry friends abroad is working.

Agents and artists and others abroad are baffled when they get asked to postpone gigs here yet again. Some of these gigs have been postponed many different times over the last few years. Because it’s not just nightclubs who are suffering here. Live music can suddenly only run at 50% capacity, meaning that most of the shows booked for over Christmas are now no longer viable. This week most Irish gigs due for December have been cancelled.

We see our friends in other countries, some far less vaccinated than ours, out enjoying themselves at gigs and in clubs, but we are no longer able to work at night.

The toll on people’s mental health has been terrible. It’s almost as we are living in a cycle of repetition. Last year we consoled ourselves with the anticipation of the impending vaccines, and most of us welcomed the impressive vaccine programme and looked forward to at least some normality as 2021 progressed. Many of those working in big festivals were the ones who were helping organise and administer the vaccination programme, which took place in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, City Hall and elsewhere. The day I got vaccinated was the day I finally felt I could look forward to working nights again. But it was not to be.

Twenty kids in my son’s class recently got Covid, but still the schools remain open while our nightlife is closed. Church services, also indoor, can proceed as normal. It is no wonder so many in the music and entertainment industry are feeling frustrated.

Tickets are still selling for next year’s outdoor events, but confidence is low, and refunds are dominating the agenda. Tours are being cancelled, promoters and agents and venues are scrambling for dates, while all the time trying to reassure the general public that they are doing their best. The many working in the industry who have been further hit by these restrictions have been asked to “take one for the team”, but sadly the damage will be irreparable for many, and more venues will shut down in the next few months.

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