Dublin’s heartbreak: cheap hotels replace iconic clubs

Donal Corrigan

Dublin nightclubs, including District 8, are being demolished and replace by hotels. Credit Rachel Halpin

A building can mean different things to different people.

The same four walls can be a home for one person and a profit machine for another. The famous District 8 club in Merchant’s Quay is just one of the many blueprints on some fat cat’s table. D8 and the conjoined Tivoli Theatre are nothing but a sheet of paper in a folder of investments and planning permission.

For partygoers, it is a cathedral of disco, house and techno where the outside world was forgotten and problems were left at the door where tough bouncers stood. However, it will soon be nothing but a pile of rocks. A hotel will be erected in the place where youths shared interests, made friends and escaped reality for a few hours.

District 8 is the latest venue in the capital that has been demolished and replaced by hotels or apartments, with Hangar being the latest on the list. It is the latest development in a series of iconic closures that the city has seen, which is slowly transforming into a serious music venue crisis in Dublin. With District 8 closing, the city will no longer have a techno venue that can cater for just over 1,000 people. This means that there is no middle ground venue between The 3Arena and small clubs like Wigwam, leaving a vacuum.

In a city that many young people cannot afford to live in, some of them soon won’t be able to enjoy themselves in it either.

However, this is not the first time that Ireland has experienced a venue crisis. Look back to the small town of Effrinagh, Co. Leitrim during the War of Independence, a local man named Jimmy Gralton built a music venue on his parent’s plot of land following The Black and Tans burning down Leitrim’s dance hall.

After emigrating to America, Jimmy returned home to Ireland in 1932. He brought with him a gramophone, which was the first one for the area. People travelled from far and wide to go to Jimmy’s dances, where they danced to ‘outrageous’ jazz music from ‘The New World’. The Church and the State viscously persecuted Jimmy because of his dance hall and his communist beliefs.

However, this did not stop him from providing a space for people to enjoy a song and a dance together. This resulted in him being the first and only man to be deported in the Irish Free State.

The issue within Dublin is not the lack of space; there are just too many properties being left vacant and not used. While Dublin expands, tourism booms and sky-rocketing rents simply price out publican owners. In July of last year, Irish singer David Kitt admitted he was forced to leave Dublin, claiming that the country itself has become too expensive.

Venues such as District 8 and Hangar have launched local talents such as Boots & Kats and Tommy Holohan onto the global stage. The city provides a space for like-minded artists to learn from each other.

However, young people will still have a desire to party regardless if there is a venue there for it or not. The closure of District 8 could see the rise of illegal raves again that were rampant in the 90s. And while this may seem exciting, it could pose serious risks to the attendees. Safe drug habits and sexual consent are far better protected in legal venues.

The city is also awash with talk for new venues, which are bigger, louder and promise the potential of a new generation of clubs. The potential for new venues around the city is truly exciting and rumour has it that Dublin could be entering the golden years for house and techno, however these promises have yet to be realised.

Brian McCarthy is a prominent figure in the Irish nightlife scene. On top of owning and running the Boxed Off Festival, his production company, Bedlam, frequently hosted international DJs in D8 such as Patrick Topping, Alan Fitzpatrick and Ejeca.

He now looks back on his last five years working in the building: “The end of an era. If not for all the people who supported, danced and created an atmosphere unrivalled in Irish nightlife, District 8 would not exist. What a space to have had the honour to promote in. (I’m) looking forward to the next challenge ahead.”

The last Saturday in January meant it was the last night for District 8. A bus waited outside the venue to collect partygoers who weren’t ready for the night to end. On their way to an illegal rave, they didn’t know where they were going. The crowd couldn’t help but laugh as DJ Deece closes the upstairs room with ‘Inspector Norse’, as he was he’s renowned for overplaying the song.

The crowd cried for ‘one more tune’ over and over, but it fell on deaf ears.

The DJs beg the bouncers for another song but it falls on deaf ears. Dublin’s youth beg the government for music venues, but it too falls on deaf ears.

Donal Corrigan

Image credit: Rachel Halpin