Every licensed premises seeking to open late has to pay €410 to the Government for each individual night they seek to remain operating beyond normal closing time for a Special Exemption Order which can often be coupled with other charges such as legal costs for obtaining an SEO. For a late-night venue operating five nights a week that represents an extra €8,200 per month imposed by the Government simply so that it can open its doors late.
This amounts to an additional two hours’ trading and only venues meeting strict criteria around CCTV, security and public liability insurance are eligible to apply.
Such late bars and nightclubs are not due to reopen until the 22nd of October, meaning they’ll have been kept closed for a record 585 consecutive days – more than 18 months. The LVA estimates there are over 300 such late pubs and nightclubs around the country employing approximately 5,000 people.
The LVA proposal would work in a similar fashion to the current liquor license waiver for other hospitality businesses that’s been adopted by the Government for 2021.
“While it’s great that there’s now a date when late bars and nightclubs will be able to open their doors again, it’s also true that for many of these venues it will take them a long time to recover,” said LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “There’s an opportunity here for the Government to aid the revival of these venues simply by waiving the Government charges involved in Special Exemption Orders.
“Securing an SEO involves Government charges of €410 per night as well as solicitors’ fees, which all adds up to significant expense for businesses who have not been allowed to trade for more than a year-and-a-half. Paying these Government fees when you lodge your application, which is how the process works, is a major burden on businesses who’ve had no turnover since March 2020.
“To help give these late bars and nightclubs a chance to recover the LVA believes the Government charges involved should not be imposed for a six-month period from 22 October 2021 to 22 April 2022.
“Under the LVA proposal the application system would remain the same – any late bar or nightclub would still have to go to Court to secure their SEO and Gardaí would be able to voice any potential objections. The only alteration is that the extra expense imposed by the State would be waived for that period. In that way it would be very similar to the liquor licence waiver the Government has provided for the rest of the hospitality sector. This is a relatively simple step for the Government to take and would also be an important saving for cash-strapped businesses.
“Another benefit of this approach is that it will provide a window for full consideration of the Night-time Economy Taskforce Report which is due to be published shortly and will have a significant bearing on the future of late bars and nightclubs. As part of that process the LVA has sought to have SEO costs reduced and late trading hours extended,” he concluded.