‘There are huge challenges for the industry to stay alive’- Keogan

Revised guidance for sector to be published this week

Almost 15 years ago there were six nightclubs operating on a regular basis in Cavan Town. Back then, Imperial Bar owner Donal Keogan remembers opening his doors at a rate of four nights a week.

Last weekend, there was just one nightclub open.

“Now I'm running one night a week. There are huge challenges for the industry to stay alive,” opines Mr Keogan, the businessman's comments coming as nightclubs opened to the public for the first time in almost 600 days with the easing of Covid restrictions last weekend.

Even at that, numbers entering the Imperial nightclub on Saturday last were somewhat curtailed, both by venue capacity, and on health and safety grounds due to a lack of trained security staff.

“We had a problem getting [enough] security staff,” admits Mr Keogan, who openly states that staffing is among the “biggest challenges” for the sector going forward.

The Imperial owner reiterates what he said before when speaking to The Anglo-Celt, that many of those who once propped up the night-time economy have, since Covid, secured employment elsewhere.

“They've been 19 months out and people have just said 'there's maybe more to life than working late at night'. They've got jobs with more sociable hours, and they don't want to return. That's the hospitality industry all over. Even getting taxis. These are issues that are going to have to be dealt with.”

Regardless, Mr Keogan is “happy” with how last weekend's proceedings went.

“Obviously there is a lot more work, having to check Covid passes and all the rest, ensuring IDs tally up. But at least you know everyone going in now has a cert, and it's probably as safe an environment as it can be.”

He says: “We were ticketing only at the weekend. I personally think its a good idea. Yes, it’s a bit more hassle for the customer, but it means for the likes of us, we know how many people are coming and you can organise enough staff.”

For now, the Imperial nightclub will open on Saturday nights, though Mr Keogan is looking at ways of diversifying what entertainment is available. However, he says perhaps it’s “too early to say” if all the answers to what will be needed to sustain the sector are contained in the weekend gone by.

“Obviously it was busy on Sunday night, Saturday as well. People have been away for 19 months, house parties, drink is cheaper, all of that. So it’s going to take time to see how it comes back, if it comes back. My feeling is the night-time economy is going to be very much event-driven, trying to do something different to get the people in.”


Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media has issued a statement on reopening of live entertainment and nightclub sector.

Officials from the department, and those from within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment also, met with industry representatives yesterday (Tuesday) to discuss the conditions of reopening for the live entertainment and nightclub sector.

The discussions followed briefings last week with industry representatives and are intended to help clarify the Government decision made on October 19 last to ease restrictions, and to develop sectoral guidance to assist businesses with a safe reopening.

The main issue of discussion was the requirement for all those businesses who wish to operate as a live entertainment venue or nightclub to use electronic ticketing systems as a condition of entry to their premises.

It was clarified that tickets must be purchased or acquired at least one hour before arrival and must contain details to allow for robust contract tracing.

“The Government wishes to move forward with this phase of reopening; however, COVID-19 still represents a very real threat to society and the aim of these measures is to balance this new reopening phase with public health considerations. The two Departments have listened to the concerns of the industry and will continue to engage throughout the reopening period. Regulations and revised guidance for the sectors impacted by this will be published this week.”