- 01 Oct 21
Nightclubs have remained closed in Ireland for the entirety of the pandemic, with noteworthy Dublin clubs closing for good and leading music figures feeling abandoned.
Promotors of last night's pilot nightclub event at the Button Factory have praised the organisation of antigen testing alongside the all-Irish line-up of DJs, with no positive Covid cases found on the night.
Organised by District 8 and Hidden Agenda Promotions, the venue held Dublin's first nightclub event in 18 months last night with Cailín, R.Kitt, Sunil Sharpe, DART, Kelly Anne Byrne, Sim Simma, Breen, Cáit and Sam Greenwood on the bill. A crowd of 450 people were finally allowed to meet their friends for a night out, with visceral electronic music and no Covid restrictions in place.
"Everyone was really happy with how the night went, it was amazing just to see people coming back into the club and to be on a dancefloor," District 8's Martin Smyth tells Hot Press. "Getting to see DJs do their thing as well is just brilliant. It felt like we were back to where we left off."
On October 22nd, the final round of restrictions will lift and clubs will open again - predominantly for fully vaccinated punters.
"The whole idea was that once you were through the doors, it was a club gig in the same way it was before - except we weren't at full capacity," Smyth acknowledged, reflecting on the preparations which took place in advance of the Button Factory pilot gig. "You've got to start somewhere though, and everyone who went in had to be antigen tested and show proof of full vaccination with a negative test to enter the venue. All of that was organised really well, we had no positive results on the night."
Was great to be back last night @ButtonFactory20! Big up to @hidden_agenda_ @District8Dublin for their work on this, the @DeptCulturelRL, everyone who played (too many to tag!), @algorithm_ie and of course the amazing Dublin crowd! Not long to go now! 🎥 Karl Magee pic.twitter.com/oVvXPGcV28
— Sunil Sharpe (@sunilsharpe) October 1, 2021
The loss of District 8 in January 2019 was a devastating blow for Dublin nightclub culture, which has already been handed closures and a lack of late alcohol licences and closing hours. Flight Facilities, Modeselektor, Joseph Capriati, Four Tet, Ejeca, Skream, Patrick Topping and Kerri Chandler are just some of the names who have graced the District 8 stage over the years. DJ Deece also used to host a number of sell-out all-nighters.
"Obviously losing District 8 was tough because we were on the brink of announcing shows that would have gone ahead," Martin admits. Most of them, at least, because they were slated for October onwards. We were about to get back to business and then the venue was taken. It was obviously pretty heartbreaking, after going through everything. You need to be versatile and roll with the punches in this game, though. To see anywhere close is awful in the hospitality space. A lot of them are small, family businesses."
Since opening its doors on August 15, 2014 with Rodhad; District 8 has been the undisputed home of big room DJs in the city – ie. acts capable of selling 1,000-plus tickets. It has become one of Ireland’s most revered clubs, and potentially the first venue to capture the energy of the old Red Box on Harcourt Street.
Sunil Sharpe also delivered a series of extended, five and six hour sets, while Boots & Kats were another success story. District 8 also provided a platform for a wide range of artists such as Cailin, Eve, Shane Linehan, Lee Kelly and Mode 1. The organisers have essentially witnessed Dublin cultural history in the making, with the team about to make a comeback at Index.
"It's obviously been a tough journey as a club promotor, there really hasn't been much you could do and we've been outliers in Europe and the UK," Martin admits, pointing out Ireland's strict lockdown rules for the live music and entertainment industry in particular. "A lot of places got back at it quicker than we did. It's all eyes on the 22nd for the full reopening. As it stands, we'll be allowed to reopen at full capacity with no restrictions. It's about what we can do to let club culture flourish now. Minister Martin said in her speech to the press yesterday that she wants Dublin and Ireland to become the epicentre of electronic music in Europe, and it's got the appetite and creativity for it. After 19 months of being non-operational, there's a lot of excitement happening."
District 8 will be operating as Index out of a new venue on Arran Quay, with renovations currently underway. Smyth is buzzing with anticipation at the location's potential, with good reason.
"We're extremely excited. Index is designed as a club before anything else, and that's unique in Dublin. Most places for electronic music are designed as venues and they become clubs at night. We stripped it all back and designed it solely as a nightclub this time around. It's a place for DJing specifically at the forefront of the process. The shows have sold really well, it seems like there's a great appetite there. We're being positive about it and we feel that we can recreate the vibe of District 8 in a new way."
Meanwhile, Give Us The Night - with DJ Sunil Sharpe at the helm - have been tirelessly campaigning for a change to Ireland's archaic licensing laws for clubs. In the coming months, Hot Press are hoping to see later closing hours among other changes if the Dance Hall Act is brought into the 21st century.
Stay updated on the campaign to modernise Ireland's nightclub culture via giveusthenight.com.
Irish venues, nightclubs and music events are being disregarded, and more closures are certain if this continues. We wrote to @MichealMartinTD @LeoVaradkar @cathmartingreen laying out a range of necessary measures to help our industry reopen safely and swiftly. pic.twitter.com/cDstl6fCP1
— Give Us The Night (@GiveUsTheNight) August 5, 2021