All day and all of the night

A few weeks ago I was driving back late at night from Cork to Dublin and had to pass through Dublin city centre to get home, at around 2 am. As I drove down Pearse Street I came to a stop, caught in a major traffic jam. At 2 am! Not only were there cars everywhere, but looking at the pavement I could see crowds of people, weaving in and out of shops and other establishments. A significant proportion of them clearly had, as they say here, drink taken.

In my youth in Ireland, I got used to more or less everything shutting down every day at 5.30 pm or so, with the exception only of restaurants (not of much interest to me back then) and pubs. Things laid on specially for young people might close at 9 pm. In addition, on Sundays and bank holidays almost nothing other than newsagents was open, day or night.

In fact this was not out of line with Europe. I lived in Germany between 1968 and 1974, and it was the same there, even more so in fact as even newsagents were closed for most of the day on Sunday, and legislation on trading hours actually prohibited shops and other establishments from opening ‘after hours. The American ‘all night’ culture had not made it across the Atlantic.

Back in Ireland in the 1980s things began to change. Gradually all night convenience stores emerged, and towards the end of the decade Bewleys Café in Grafton Street extended its opening hours, and eventually was (if I recall correctly) open all night. More recently shops began to follow suit, and the major supermarkets (or some of them) have been open for 24 hours.

But the trend is not all one way. Shops and bars and night clubs are open all hours, but if you want to sit and have a quiet cup of coffee at 3 am, it’s much more difficult. Bewleys for example went back to cloding at night. The night time culture is hedonistic rather than thoughtful or peaceful. Beyond hedonistic, I know that a lot of people are worried that if they are out at night amongst the crowds they are as likely to face an assault as enjoy an amusing conversation.

I am a great fan of a 24/7 society. I know there are arguments – based on religion for some, on health and well-being for others – that we should shut everything down at certain times, but instinctively I like the idea of society being open at all times for those who want it. But I am not sure that this is what we have. There is something brash (and not in the good sense) about our night time culture. Dublin is also now the ‘city that never sleeps’ – but I hope it might become a night time city that can provide a positive culture, and ultimately not just one fuelled by drink and drugs. More thought should be put into this by policy makers.

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One Comment on “All day and all of the night”

  1. Ultan Says:

    “Brash” is an understatement. “Menacing,” “violent,” and “intimidating” might be closer to the mark. To be fair, Dublin has been a place of aggression and danger at night for years. Certainly in my college days you watched yourself when out and about in the ’80s, even drinking in student company in the Stag’s Head, but Dublin now has a frightening, booze and drug-fuelled nature at night that you don’t see in a lot of cities, as tanked up teenagers and young adults of both sexes square up to complete strangers “looking for trouble”. Much of this reflects very badly on Irish society’s immaturity and inability to deal with wealth, success and alcohol – and not just by those under the age of 25. Looking at San Francisco, I think a good social alternative like some 24 hour coffee houses (in the Starbucks, not Netherlands sense) with free wifi and some rigourous enforcement of the public order legislation by the cops might be a start to at least reducing the capacity for harm.

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