Stricter closing hours could make city a ghost town, say publicans

Publicans and club owners in the city have reacted angrily to a clampdown on late-night opening by An Garda Siochana in recent days, but gardai have stated that they are merely carrying our routine inspections in accordance with the law.

“We have had to put all the staff on notice,” one publican, who did not wish to be named, told the Galway Advertiser, as an online petition criticising the move was launched this week.

Warning of possible closures and job losses, he went onto say that the enforcement of the 1am closing time from Monday to Thursday will be especially disastrous when students return to the city’s third level colleges next month.

“They won’t leave the house,” he said. “Students will just have house parties and there will be an unsupervised rag week through every housing estate in Galway.”

Gardai in Galway have cracked down on the practice of bars staying open until 2am.

The law, as it stands, states that pubs are allowed to serve until 11.30pm Monday to Thursday and until 12.30am on Friday and Saturday with a half-hour ‘drinking up’ time.

Those wishing to open later can apply to the local courts for an exemption, but despite popular perception, these allow for drink to be served until 1am, with a half-hour drinking up time, not until 2am.

Previously, authorities turned a blind eye to premises opening until 2am, providing venues had paid €440 per extension.

“I think it’ll be the end for Galway,” the publican said. “This will completely ruin the city, just like it ruiend Salthill and turned it into a ghost town.”

Meanwhile, an internet petition decrying the current licensing laws has gathered more than 2,000 signatures.

Organised by staff of various nightspots throughout the city, the ‘Close Early, Lose Jobs’ petition warns that staff in bars and other related industries face losing their jobs unless the law is relaxed or changed.

“This is going to affect a lot of staff in the service industry,” one of the petition organisers told the Galway Advertiser. “The main crux is, why now, after so long, has this become a big issue?”

A bar worker in a city nightclub, the organiser said that the way young people socialise has changed and the law needs to reflect that.

“The law is outdated, it’s not very accommodating,” he said, adding that many students do not go out until 12am and if pubs closed earlier they would not bother going out at all. “We get lots of students. We wouldn’t be here without them.”

He is adamant that earlier closing will not make a difference to people’s rate of alcohol consumption or anti-social behaviour, citing unsupervised drinking at home as more damaging to health than drinking pub measures.

“I can’t justify how closing a nightclub an hour earlier will make any difference,” he said. “I don’t see the sense in what they’re trying to achieve.”

He also said that Galway might lose trade to other cities if “bad publicity” about its social scene begins to circulate.

“People might say, oh let’s go to Limerick where we can drink til 3am or clubs in Dublin which are open til 4 or 5,” he said.

He is hopeful that the online petition will make a difference, and added that publicans have gained support from some members of the Galway City Council. —

“That many people’s voices have to be heard,” he said.

A Garda spokesperson at Mill St station, said that the gardai were carrying out routine inspections in accordance with the law.

“We are currently running an operation to ensure compliance with late licensing laws,” he said, adding that there has been “100 per cent compliance” thus far.

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