At the Lemon & Duke bar in Dublin’s city centre, it could’ve been any busy night in the week before Christmas. Right up, that is, until 8pm.
Then, the staff guided customers towards the exits and into the cold of Duke Lane Lower. With that, their Christmas revelry was over. Welcome to the new Irish night out, until at least the end of January anyway.
For father and daughter Gerry and Jenny Whelan, there was a generational divide in attitudes.
“For me, it doesn’t bother me”, says Gerry. “I’m happy enough to have a few pints and leave at 8pm. But for younger people, it’s much more difficult I think.”
His daughter is far from happy. “I don’t get it,” Jenny sighs. “People will just drink in houses now. People will be absolutely hammered in gaffs and just spread it further.”
Ireland’s curfew for pubs and restaurants begins
Clad in a Santa hat, Megan Dagg rues the early end to the night.
She says: “Our booking was originally for 8pm, so we had to change it. We got our dessert with our main course because we kinda had to be rushed out.”
Her friend, Saoirse Durkan, adds: “It’s not good. It’s Christmas week and you want to go out and celebrate and be festive with your friends and family, you only get this once a year. I think it could have waited until after Christmas.”
Lemon & Duke’s owner Noel Anderson says it’s been “soul-destroying” asking his customers to leave at such an early hour.
“It’s a very difficult time, with huge uncertainty again”, he tells us.
It’s a view echoed over at The Two Sisters, a suburban pub belonging to Deirdre Devitt.
She’s invested tens of thousands of euros in hygiene measures, but faces yet another financial hit this Christmas.
“Devastated” is how she sums up her reaction to the new restrictions.
“It’s another blow when we’ve had nearly two years of blows at this stage”, Deirdre says.
“We have 35 staff, and our main goal really is to protect them, but we don’t know what sort of business we’re going to have in the next number of weeks, at a time when as a suburban pub it would’ve been a really, really busy time as people finish for Christmas and want to stay local. It’s an awful blow.”
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