- 06 Dec 21
With nightclubs being shut once more, and new restrictions limiting bars, restaurants and other venues this festive season, it’s likely thousands will return to unemployment.
Creatives within Ireland are reeling after the announcement that fresh restrictions would come into effect tonight at midnight, which will see hospitality and live events at 50% capacity.
Everyone from music artists, events managers and promoters, nightclub owners, DJs, gig photographers, stage crew, theatre employees, sound engineers and more have seen their work for December decimated as a result of the rise in cases - presumed to be because of the new Omicron variant.
Hot Press understands that the case against further restrictions was put to the sub-committee in trenchant terms by Minister Catherine Martin, who spoke about the devastating impact restrictions have had on people in the music and culture space over the past 21 months; and that the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, himself a medical doctor, was also sceptical of the need to impose a fresh round of restrictions.
Numerous artists tweeted their frustration and disappointment at the news, especially after the long-awaited full capacity gig and nightclub reopening happened a mere six weeks ago.
"When your party's policies have done so much damage to the nightclub industry over the years, a decision like today was evidently water off a duck's back for the Taoiseach. Disappointing decision, but predictable all the same," nightlife organisation Give Us The Night stated.
"A tremendously compliant industry for 6 weeks since the so-called reopening. No outbreaks, restricted to the hilt (to the point that some venues remained shut or closed again), yet nightclubs - of those we still have left - are still targeted by Nphet/Govt."
"Remember - numbers were on the rise as we opened and virus has stabilised before we shut. What damage have nightclubs done in that time? Nightclubs should be nowhere near today's headlines. Weak and totally premature decision which hasn't been justified at all."
Numbers are stabilising and is a better case for extending times than curtailing. Do Nphet/Govt know how much activity has already been cancelled in Dec + over Xmas? Closing clubs would just lead to upsurge in private events/big parties. Must be a flat no from @MichealMartinTD https://t.co/Jmciwc5RNs
— Sunil Sharpe (@sunilsharpe) December 3, 2021
"Actually feel sick. Events industry battered when it couldn’t take another battering," The Blizzards frontman and mental health podcaster Niall Breslin said.
From the perspective of industry I work in , not once throughout this pandemic did I feel in safe hands when it came to our leadership , not once did I feel empathy or solidarity from them. I genuinely expected more from them.
— Niall Breslin (@nbrez) December 3, 2021
Others pointed out that capping shows at 50 percent will inevitably lead to huge economic damage to venues, promoters and the performers themselves.
"The announcement today in Ireland has destroyed all shows this Christmas. That is a fact," Malahide singer-songwriter and producer James Vincent McMorrow tweeted. "Because you cant sell tickets and then go pick 50% of the crowd and tell them to fuck off. This is horrendous and depressing."
Anger, frustration, disappointment & exhaustion across our sector as we unravel again.
Jobs lost, businesses decimated.
We are resilient but we are running on empty.@cathmartingreen @MichealMartinTD @LeoVaradkar DO NOT let us down. Immediate supports ESSENTIAL. #SAVETHEARTS
— National Campaign for the Arts - Ireland (@Campaign4Arts) December 3, 2021
"I understand today's decision following NPHET advice is a huge blow to the entertainment sector already hurting. I’ve secured an extra €25m to support live entertainment, doubling Budget22's to €50m. My officials will discuss its implementation w/stakeholders asap," Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Media and Sport, Catherine Martin, tweeted following the announcement on Friday.
"The industry will desperately take this because, as ever, it is the bottom of the pile and gets treated accordingly," McMorrow replied to Martin's tweet. "But until someone shows me a plan where every musicians/venue/ent industry worker is made whole for their sudden lost work, this stuff feels fairly hollow."
This is a really serious blow not just to the industry but to the mental well being of so many in the sector, a devastating body blow at the worst possible time. I feel particularly for artists, so, so much of their vitality, belief goes into their shows. This is awful 💔💔💔
— GlasTombury Dunne (@tomhappens) December 3, 2021
The public was also urged to take part in the public consultation on the Review of Alcohol Licensing, which closes on January 21st, 2022.
The issue of outdated alcohol licensing legislation was a key challenge identified by stakeholders in the recently published report of the Night-Time Economy Taskforce. The Minister intends to modernise alcohol licensing laws through the Sale of Alcohol Bill.
Other artists called on their fans and followers to give them a helping hand this Christmas by buying from their merchandise store, such as Tebi Rex.
"The government has once again given a middle finger to the live entertainment industry, just in time for Christmas," the Kildare duo tweeted. "If you wanna spread some cheer our way and pick up some Tebi merch - we have restocked the site!"
The government has once again given a middle finger to the live entertainment industry, just in time for Christmas ☺️✨
If you wanna spread some cheer our way and pick up some Tebi merch - we have restocked the site! pic.twitter.com/sVNZF3HeNw
— Tebi Rex (@TebiRex) December 5, 2021
Live music photographers have also seen their workload dramatically shrink in the past 18 months, and were over the moon about the re-opening of full capacity performances.
Irish workers who are let go from their jobs as a result of new restrictions have been given another lifeline by the Irish government with the reopening of Pandemic Unemployment Payment applications.
Officials are working to highlight the scheme once again for those struggling amid the recent surge.
Although a tapering off of the available Covid support schemes has been in effect in recent months, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said it’s likely the full payments will resume.
Minister Donohoe told radio hosts on Friday that he expects the PUP rate will return at its original sum of €350 for those made unemployed following new restrictions.
🚨 @VirginMediaNews understands PUP to reopen next week to those in the hospitality and events sector - Cabinet agreement in principle
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) December 3, 2021
Creatives, in the mean-time, must sit and hope that the restrictions are only in place until January 9th.
Representatives from the hospitality and events sectors will meet with members of Government at 11am today to discuss the impact of the latest public health restrictions, which come into effect tomorrow.
Among the new measures, tables in restaurants and bars will be limited to six people and there is an inability to book multiple tables.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Elaine O’Connor, the co-founder of the Event Industry Association of Ireland, described the 50 per cent capacity restriction for events as the “worst case scenario.”
It had been a “very long” year and a half for the sector which had been hoping for “some sort of progress,” she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
“We’re now in what I would describe as our worst scenario. We’re at our lowest ebb now.”
While supports have been offered, O'Connor said that they had been very focused on sectors of the industry that “maybe suit Government departments more than the industry”.
There were “countless different event types” that had not been able to access supports, she said.
“To run a gig at 50 percent capacity you’d have to have been making 50 percent profit essentially beforehand. We were never anywhere close to that, 70 percent was a struggle."
"You’re talking about spending nearly twice as much money or spending twice as much time producing something on the double to try and make up the difference”.