Clubs in Ireland are set to receive funding for soundproofing through a newly launched government initiative. Catherine Martin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, made the announcement this week.
The Night Time Economy Noise Mitigation Grant Scheme launched on Tuesday 18th July and will close 31st December 2023, or whenever funding runs out. Overall, €2 million is to be made available for eligible night clubs and venues.
A maximum of €70,000 will be paid out per application, with 70% of costs guaranteed to be covered up to that amount. All funds will be issued upon submission of a paid invoice for acoustic work, meaning venues will either need a loan or to front the investment themselves.
A separate €800,000 tranche has also been confirmed for arts centres and cultural spaces to open later and diversify night-time programming. 12 pilots projects will be selected for "innovative approaches to night-time cultural activities" in an extension of a trial that began in June 2022, when Night Time Economy Advisors were appointed to six Irish cities.
The noise mitigation support scheme has been announced as Ireland prepares to overhaul what many consider to be outdated licensing laws relating to the Night time Economy, some dating to the 19th Century. Confirmed last October, clubs should soon be allowed to open until 6AM with drinks served until 5AM. The decision has followed years of work by Give Us The Night, an Irish nightlife organisation co-founded by Dublin-based DJ Sunil Sharpe, which has been responsible for highly visible campaigns and activities. These include an open letter to government and speeches at the Embassy of Ireland in Berlin. Revisit DJ Mag's 2021 feature on the fight for the future of Irish clubbing here.
Responding to the news, Give Us The Night wrote on Instagram: "Fantastic new schemes announced by the minister today, that will make a significant difference to the future viability of night-time venues, and create an interesting new programme of night-time events (and collaborations between music communities and arts centres) this year". Speaking at the launch, Sharpe described the funding as helping "save jobs and careers".
Speaking to Resident Advisor, Sharpe added that the move will "send out a fresh message to the public that night-time venues aren't so much of a nuisance if they have ample noise protection in place."
Although the news has been hailed as a positive step in the right direction, some have criticised the soundproofing scheme, pointing out that many night time businesses are struggling with basic costs, making additional investments impossible, and other measures could be more effective at protecting the sector. One respondent on Twitter wrote: "Half the late night venues cannot insure themselves to stay open. Fucking 2 million on sound proofing." Responding to this, Give Us The Night explained: "Anyone who knows about running a venue knows that insurance is one issue, noise problems another, and so on. We don't just have one problem, we have many."
Speaking to DublinLive recently, Graham Ryan, General Manager at the venue Yamamori Tengu, commented on the complexity of current requirements and the need for urgent clarification on when new opening hours will be available, and how this will impact existing rules dictating each 'nightlife activity' be covered by its own license, for example, drinking, dancing, and live music. He said: “Even if the legislation went through, for example, tomorrow, I actually don't think much would change probably for a few years just with people catching up and, I guess, venues adjusting.”
Priority is also a concern, with Sunil Sharpe remarking recently that “the industry is literally hanging on for dear life”. The Dáil, Ireland's parliament, failed to make significant progress on the forthcoming legislation before summer recess began last week, despite aims to have outlined plans by early 2023.