Closing time (whether you like it or not)

We sat on two small chairs by a table outside the shop drinking our bottled beer amongst a street-full of people doing exactly the same thing, enjoying a thirst-quenching throat-drenching, relaxing after what had no doubt a hard-working day. It was just past 10.30pm....


Suddenly, around the corner swerved a military jeep doing 20 with siren sounding. Two uniformed military figures leaning out on either side of the chassis made sweeping gestures with their arms to those drinking on the pavement thus signaling the end of our entertainment for the night.

This warning by the two custodians of the law also let bar owners know in no uncertain terms that it was time for them and their customers to get to bed.

But hey, Hanoi can be a bit like that…. Within 10 minutes, the street was cleared and shuttered, all of us tucked up in bed, listening to peace replace the hustle and bustle of a normal evening’s business on the side-streets of the Vietnamese capital on any given Summer’s night. They don’t mess around with late-night licensing hours over there……

Here in Ireland, with a similar disregard to tourist and local, all we’re missing is the military jeep. The Government continues to use Special Exemption Orders as another cash cow.

It costs around €500 for just one SEO. Result? Nightclubs and late-night bars are ‘disappearing’ from rural towns all over Ireland, this year’s VFI conference heard.

The reason is not lack of customers, it’s the sheer cost which doubled under the last Government and remains ignored by this one with late-night bar closures and loss of employment a consequence.

The SEO process has rightly been described as ‘cumbersome’ too. A motion to enable local Gardai issue a limited number of late-night certificates for a ‘nominal fee’ received unanimous backing at this year’s conference.

So in the run-up to the elections, this Government might reconsider allowing Irish consumers enjoy a late-night beverage by reducing the ridiculous SEO fee and so let late-night bars and clubs use them to earn a living once more.

Otherwise a metaphorical military jeep could well be taking a spin down our own road any time now.



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