The day had come. Nearly six hundred days of lockdowns, restrictions, and levels upon levels upon sublevels from the government. After almost two years of impatience, uncertainty and masks creating unfortunate acne leading up to this day. No longer will we have to darken Zoom’s door, or stay away from our fellow man. The atmosphere in the build-up to freedom was electric; the energy of thousands of people’s excitement pulsating beneath our feet, people waiting with baited breath. You know exactly what I’m talking about. On the 22nd of October 2021, Trinity College removed the booking system in the library. If you want to taste true freedom, sit in the lower Lecky just because you can.
Of course, the clubs opened as well, the complete antithesis to the last two years of COVID-19. Right at the beginning of lockdown, we all saw the statistics of pollution decreasing in the absence of cars and planes, videos of sweet little ducks walking across empty highways and sheep entering abandoned McDonald’s, and we declared that nature is healing. Now I’m no scientist, but the moment I saw sweet little drunk people stumbling around Dublin and heard the chirping of EDM on the streets, that was when I felt like nature was truly healing. I’m sure no one could resist shedding a small tear at the reopening of clubs, whether you were one of the nine people who managed to get a ticket to the Academy, or you were waiting outside Coppers in a queue so long that by the time you actually got to the front the government had already reintroduced restrictions.
“It was absolutely fantastic to welcome people back through the doors again – seeing our former regulars pop back in for old time sake or the fresh faces experiencing a nightclub for the first time.”
It was an “absolutely magical” experience for all according to Ryan from The Academy. Speaking to Trinity News, Ryan, marketing manager for The Academy, expressed his relief and joy at the re-opening of clubs: “It was absolutely fantastic to welcome people back through the doors again – seeing our former regulars pop back in for old time sake or the fresh faces experiencing a nightclub for the first time. Hopefully we can keep the doors open for good.”
Indeed, owners and clubbers alike revelled in the chaos of the clubs once again all over the country. Catherine Grogan, who attended a club in Laois with Trinity’s Surf Club, thought that going from restricted pubs and bars to clubs was not like going from “ninety to one hundred”, but that it was still a very different scene. “The club I was in was probably not as busy as it would have been it Dublin, but that being said it did feel weird because everything about the reopening has been so gradual, and there were multiple moments during COVID where we were like ‘oh, imagine being back at the club’, and then it came.”
Ella Burkett, a second year student, went to The Academy’s iconic “Circus”, a weekly event in one of Dublin’s most popular clubs. This was an appropriate first night back, considering it was clowns who closed the clubs and clowns who opened them up again (and clowns who could very likely close them again in December but that’s another story). Burkett, who went clubbing in Dublin for the first time this October, noted that there was as strong a difference between the clubs and other aspects of Irish social life. “The only thing that felt weird was the lack of masks and how oddly normal that was, as well as how crowded it was, but having been to house parties as well as busy bars and pubs, the vibe wasn’t all that different except for the intensity of the music and the performers there.”
When the announcement of the clubs’ reopening came, several COVID-friendly restrictions came with it. Some of those restrictions raised a few eyebrows, particularly through online responses. “One metre social distance required at the bar” seemed fairly optimistic on the government’s part, but at least there were also some truly sensible restrictions, like the new rule that tickets must be sold by nightclubs in advance. We all know that nights out are planned weeks in advance, and who doesn’t miss the psychological warfare that was buying tickets for the next teenage disco before they all sold out?
Many were also struck by the mask guidelines within nightclubs – that masks should be worn at all times other than when you are “dancing, drinking or eating”. I know we’ve been out of clubs for a while, but I seem to recall food was best eaten after a night out, unless spice bags and pizzas are a new type of cocktail. Of course, the government could actually be really hip and mean “eating the face off someone”, the age-old Irish mating ritual, in which case I think the government should realise that some things are best left behind in 2019.
On the subject of masks, Burkett wasn’t convinced that the restrictions were seen in The Academy. “There was a vaccine check at the door of The Academy, but literally not a single person except the bartenders were wearing a mask, and no one said anything about mask wearing either; not a single person talked to me about it, or checked in with me, or anyone else for that matter.” However, Burkett didn’t think the lack of masks was an issue. “I am cool with the vaccine check and the lack of mask wearing inside for the reason that as long as I’m comfortable that everyone’s been properly checked. If it’s a room full of vaccinated people, I couldn’t care less.”
It certainly seems that the requirement of a vaccine certificate will be a fixture on nightclub doors for the foreseeable future. It’s definitely in the interest of public health, but it does seem like we are neglecting the mental, social and spiritual health of an entire cohort of people: underage drinkers. While it was relatively easy to borrow an ID from an older friend or cousin, faking a vaccine certificate seems to require a bit more strategising than before.
The array of restrictions still in place means that it may be another while longer until we can dance to terrible techno music in peace. But if Golfgate, Merriongate, and dozens of shebeens sprouting across the country over the last two years taught us anything, it’s that we’ll keep the sesh alive at any cost.