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Nightclubs buzzing with excitement again after ‘grim’ months of closure

Party time returns as eager revellers celebrate the end of restrictions

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Big night: Partygoers at Filthy McNastys nightclub in Belfast last night

Big night: Partygoers at Filthy McNastys nightclub in Belfast last night

Ruairi, Caomhan and Adam out in Belfast

Ruairi, Caomhan and Adam out in Belfast

Big night: Partygoers at Filthy McNastys nightclub in Belfast last night

Big night: Partygoers at Filthy McNastys nightclub in Belfast last night

Big night: Partygoers at Filthy McNastys nightclub in Belfast last night

Big night: Partygoers at Filthy McNastys nightclub in Belfast last night

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Big night: Partygoers at Filthy McNastys nightclub in Belfast last night

Revellers, ravers and raring-to-go party animals rejoiced yesterday , as nightclubs across Northern Ireland were permitted to open again for the first time since Christmas.

Initial lockdown rules halted late-night discos from operating, until their highly anticipated return which came on Halloween night last year.

Clubs then had a short-lived stint until the Executive shut them down again from 6am on Boxing Day onwards, amid concerns around the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant.

January 26 however, was a date marked in many young people’s minds, as it saw the reopening of clubs across the region.

The revival of student hotspots have been particularly welcomed, especially by Belfast’s dense university-attending population.

Speaking just ahead of opening the doors last night, Jordan Heaney bar supervisor at the Limelight said he was "excited" for the club’s return.

Despite it being 'dry January' he expected the Limelight to be as busy as ever due to its popularity with students and the fact that it has been closed for so long.

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"It's just about making sure there's enough space now to fit everyone in," he joked.

Dancing and indoor standing events in general are also now able to resume, and while Covid certification passports are no longer legally required in bars, restaurants and cinemas, they are still needed to gain access to a club (or to indoor unseated or partially seated events with 500 people or more).

While a lot of venues have opted to postpone their grand reopening until the weekend, restrictions officially eased for nightclubs as of noon yesterday, and many business owners throughout Northern Ireland were champing at the bit to get punters back through the doors as quickly as possible.

In Belfast, Northern Ireland’s most popular LGBT+ venue, Kremlin kicked the night off at 10pm with resident DJ Ryan A, and the city centre’s Thompson’s Garage reopened at 8pm with their trademark hip hop and urban-themed Funkarama night.

Outside Thompson’s, three friends Adam, Caomhan, Ruairi (who didn’t wish to give their surnames) were more than ready to be back out 'for good'.

For Adam, it has been too long since he was in a nightclub with no restrictions. "I was in Thompson's two weeks ago, but it was table service and no dancing. I'd say last time I was in a full-on club was my second (university) year, so two years ago."

Despite clubs opening briefly back in October, the lads felt it '"didn't feel right to go" but find that this time around, things seem "more definitive".

"It felt like you were always waiting to go back into lockdown before," Adam added. "But now it feels like you're more allowed to go out."

Caomhan said that the minute they heard last week that nightclubs would be reopening again, his instant reaction was: "Right Wednesday night, let's get out".

Ruairi graduated from Queen's University Belfast in December, but said he is planning to still make the most of his student party life now, adding: "I missed my entire final year because of Covid.

"My entire final year, everything was closed. It was grim!"

Joe Dougan promotes clubs and events, including Shine Belfast, which owns the Limelight building. It is one of the city’s most renowned concert venues and had been restricted to comedy gigs and limited bar table service for long periods at a time during the pandemic.

The nightclub itself has been closed for 89 weeks over the past two years, and only fully opened for eight, according to Mr Dougan.

At 9pm last night though, it was clear to see how eager many of the Limelight’s lovers have been for the return of its ‘UFO’ night. The ticketed event sold out well in advance of its re-launch.

A regular midweek destination for students, UFO offers three rooms of tunes, two beer gardens and “insane production”.

“Hopefully this is the end of the restrictions and we can get back to planning and back to business,” said Mr Dougan.

He said he hopes that that an Executive meeting on February 10 will remove mandatory Covid certification in all settings, to bring nightclubs and other venues into line with the rest of hospitality. “But it’s going to take a long time to fully recover from the damage for many sectors including hospitality, retail and travel,” he added.


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