Murdering the Dancefloor: How We’re Being Priced Out of Nightlife

Image Credit: Alex Jaresko

Nightlife is an inherently social institution, so why is it being torn apart? Orla Mahon explores the question.

When we talk about nightlife in Dublin, it’s easy to feel sort of hopeless. Between pints of Guinness being sold for six-fifty (six-fifty!) and the prolonged delay in the supposed loosening of licensing laws that would allow nightclubs to stay open until six in the morning, an attitude of apathy is inevitable – what can you really do, right? I’ve noticed within my own friend group that often the most tempting option is having yet another night in together to dodge the high cost that going out in the city centre can (usually) bring, especially that expensive taxi one dash for amongst the rush of other patrons to be brought home at half two. Opting not to engage in Dublin nightlife feels like a solution, but this kind of disillusionment doesn’t recognise the ramifications that a dying nightlife culture may have on our social well-being – especially amongst young people.

Opting not to engage in Dublin nightlife feels like a solution, but this kind of disillusionment doesn’t recognise the ramifications that a dying nightlife culture may have on our social wellbeing – especially amongst young people. 

Nightlife is more than just another aspect of cities, and it cannot be thought about in purely economic terms. It’s a central aspect of a city’s culture and provides a space for community building. Involvement in a nightlife culture – whether it’s a quiet pub or an underground rave scene – facilitates social connections within an environment of like-minded individuals. On a deeper level, nightlife can function as an important community hub for marginalised groups as well. Historically, and currently, the LGBTQ+ community has found refuge in spaces such as bars and clubs that are specifically dedicated to freedom of expression and the protection of the community. Outside of people’s identities, the city at night offers a backdrop for the blurring of what may otherwise be stratified social groups. Bars and clubs provide a casual, relaxed environment for people to interact with groups that they may otherwise have no contact with. I can’t tell you how many truly amazing people I’ve met purely because we happened to sit at the same table in the Workman’s smoking area. Not only does the nightlife sector strengthen pre-existing communities, but it can also allow the creation of new ones through a low-pressure, inhabitation-free setting.

When it becomes unaffordable for people to engage in a city’s nightlife culture, it alienates the very people who have established and elevated it. Not only this, but an increasingly expensive nightlife market disrupts an important method for communities to be built, for the fulfilment of social needs, and the continued livelihood of a social network. This is particularly concerning for marginalised groups – where their community might be the only place where they feel able to truly express themselves. When prices increase to such an extent, it sends a message that a space is focused on profit rather than the special value that the feeling of a community can bring to a place. This isn’t to say that businesses shouldn’t function as businesses, but the sole targeting of an affluent consumer base is disrupting the development of a nightlife culture that fulfils our social needs and well-being – particularly for young people, working-class people, and marginalised social groups.

What can be done, then, outside of relenting to hopelessness? Thankfully, there is no shortage of people in Dublin continuing to fight for a nightlife that serves its community. Collectives such as BPM (@bpm.worldwide) and Club Comfort (@clubcomfort___) are developing exactly the type of low-cost, inclusive, community-building events that our nightlife scene so desperately needs. I have continued faith in Dublin’s nightlife culture, and I believe it’s well-placed.