Nightclubs and late venues around Ireland should only allow entry to people who have purchased tickets in advance, according to new guidelines published this evening.
They cannot be sold at the door. The same rules will also apply to underage events such as teenage discos.
Ticketing will be required for the purposes of contact tracing for all nightclubs and venues and will be the subject of regulations to be put in place next week.
RTÉ understands the tickets will only be on sale in a digital format and not printed.
A valid Covid-19 Digital Certificate, with photo identification, is required for admission to all venues operating for the purposes of live entertainment and nightclubs.
The guidelines come as nightclubs prepare to reopen this evening, after almost 600 days of closure. Coppers in Harcourt Street, Dublin was among those with long queues outside tonight.
Late night venues can now operate at 100% capacity, while live music venues can host a fully seated crowd and up to 1,500 people standing.
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said the new rules requiring advanced ticket bookings for nightclubs are "completely unworkable".
Following a meeting with Government officials, the group representing the majority of Dublin pubs and venues described the proposals as "Keystone Cops meets Father Ted."
The LVA said that while the term "in advance" is still to be officially defined, it was made clear during the briefing it would need to be done a minimum of 24 hours in advance and potentially with up to 72 hours' notice.
However, Government sources told RTÉ it is likely that people will be able to book "in a matter of minutes" in advance if necessary.
The Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI) said tonight's guidelines would lead to confusion and be impossible to implement.
It said it was extremely concerned that advance purchase of tickets will lead to public order incidents as large ticketless crowds gather outside clubs.
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said: "This really has been a shambolic process from the press conference last Tuesday to this last minute senseless U-turn.
"We now have a situation where clubs can sell tickets at the door this weekend but must move to ticket only in advance by next week.
"There remains simple questions that cannot be answered. How will this be managed in late bars? How will music and dancing be regulated in traditional pubs? Simple questions but officials remain unable to explain what guidelines pubs should implement."
The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, welcomed the "safe and viable return of the night-time economy".
She said it was "vitally important that each venue operator utilises their skilled health and safety expertise, and exercises judgement and caution with due regard to protecting public health".
Details of the new guidelines issued tonight include:
- Dancing without masks is permitted but face coverings must be worn by patrons when they are away from the dance floor and not eating or drinking.
- Counter service will be permitted in pubs, but drinking at the bar will not be allowed. The plan for "orderly, safe and socially-distanced queuing" will be the subject of regulation. Public health advice is still that table service is safest but there is recognition that "queuing can be managed very safely once there is no congregation of people".
- Hand sanitisers should be at all tables.
- At live music events, up to 1,500 standing patrons can attend, and any capacity above this number must be fully seated.
- Socially distanced bar service is permitted for drink orders and collection.
- All patrons must show proof of immunity and have photo ID to access indoor hospitality.
- The removal of the restrictions on multiple table bookings in a general hospitality setting means that family/social bookings are now permitted (15 per table, of which a maximum of 10 may be adults). However, such events must be fully-seated.
- Weddings can operate without any capacity restrictions. Table capacities are the same as those for general hospitality.
- Customers unable to provide the required evidence of vaccination or immunity following recovery from Covid-19 may access outdoor hospitality only.
- Opening hours' restrictions on licensed premises have been removed. Hotels and bars will apply closing times as set out in the Licensing Acts.
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Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said while the majority of publicans and restaurant owners have been compliant with public health guidelines, those who have not "need to step up".
Ahead of tonight's further reopening, Minister Donnelly said he has been assured by the sector that guidelines will be followed and Covid passes will be checked and cross-checked.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has urged people who are not yet vaccinated against Covid-19 to come forward to 'help our national effort to keep everyone safe' | Read more: https://t.co/V49BezPGxb pic.twitter.com/kvrw7Eax8V— RTÉ News (@rtenews) October 22, 2021
He said anyone going into a premises where they are not asked for a Covid cert should think about leaving, because the premises is not being run in a "safe and legal manner".
His message for anyone going to a nightclub or late night venue tonight is: "Mind yourself, take care of yourself, take care of other people, this disease is vicious."
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has defended the Government's handling of the reopening of nightclubs and the wider hospitality sector.
Micheál Martin said the Government had resisted the option of pausing the reopening of the sector, and had proceeded on the basis of advice from public health officials.
"To be frank with you, Covid has created a situation, the situation has taken a turn for the worse. The Government has responded to that and followed the advice of NPHET," he told reporters in Brussels.
Minister Catherine Martin said the measures would be reviewed over the coming weeks to ensure that the correct balance was being struck between easing Covid-19 restrictions for a long shuttered industry, while also continuing to protect public health.
However, Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh contended that nightclubs and live venues should have been given safety guidelines earlier this week.
He argued the only reason this did not happen was because Minister Martin failed to prepare for the expected.
Assistant Professor of Virology at UCD Gerald Barry said he has great optimism around the reopening of clubs and live venues, adding that they have been "punished so badly" during this pandemic.
However, he said there are mixed emotions with both "great enthusiasm" for reopening, but also considering the reality and knowing that any social gathering increases the risks of infection.
He said with a nightclub setting and very close contacts, inevitably that is going to increase the risk of transmission, but he also warned against finger pointing at nightlife and blaming that section of society for what is "a general issue" across the country.