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First look at new over 23s nightclub in Dublin city centre: ‘It’ll be big. It’ll be loud. It’ll be spectacular’

SoHo club aims to attract clubbers with cheap drinks and plush surroundings at former Tramline premises

Dublin’s nightlife offering is set to receive a boost this weekend when a new late-night venue is due to open its doors for the first time.

SoHo Dublin on D’Olier Street, located in the former Tramline nightclub premises, will cater to up to about 900 people at the 1,115 sq m venue. More than 50 staff are expected to be on-site when the club opens at 10pm from Thursdays to Sundays.

When The Irish Times drops in for a first look at the over-23s club, staff are busy scurrying around with boxes, equipment and all sorts of bartending gizmos; 12 pallets of drinks are being unloaded, and some staff are arranging the more than €30,000 worth of glassware for the venue.

A sound system has been imported from Finland and a wheelchair stairlift has been brought in from Austria – it took three days to charge it up. And flanking the main stage will be a giant screen worth €100,000.


The concrete slab on the bar still has the word Tramline etched in to it. “That was supposed to be covered yesterday,” says co-owner Jerry Harrington. There’s a sense of all-hands-on-deck to get the place ready in time.

The venue has three distinct rooms which will play different music and cater to a mix of vibes, such as R&B, live music and premium drinks served in a seating area with 1980s throwbacks. “You’re getting value for money in a plush environment.”

“We will go back to a lot of tribute bands,” he says. “We will have a lot of international shows, such as acts from Brazil, London and Ibiza. And Dave Treacy from RTÉ.”

Our interview is interrupted by a staff member explaining to Harrington they’ll need to keep staff until 9pm over a few evenings to preparing the venue on time. “I left here last night at quarter to two [in the morning],” he explains, “and was back here at 7.15am.” That will be more or less his week commuting from Ashbourne, Co Meath, until the club opens.

Harrington is no rookie when it comes to the club scene. Since the early 1990s he has worked in the industry, running clubs over the years such as The Temple Theatre, Power’s Hotel and Bennigans on the Green. He claims he was the first to bring lasers on to the Irish scene in the late 1980s. He is co-owner of SoHo with Paul Hayden, another industry veteran behind venues such as The System, Bondi and Harry’s on the Green. The pair have entered into a long lease agreement, “hence the large investment”, says Harrington.

Give Us The Night, a campaign group lobbying for positive changes to nightlife in Ireland, welcomed the news, particularly in light of the struggles of the night-time industry in Ireland over the last two decades. Four in five clubs in Ireland have closed since 2000, when there were 522 across the country, according to research conducted by Give Us The Night.

“The nightclub industry here is now so small that it only accounts for 0.6 per cent of the total licensed liquor trade in Ireland,” the group of industry professionals said. “Seven counties in Ireland are now down to their very last nightclub.”

How does Harrington expect to beat the trend? “We’ve got a Dublin 2 location,” he says. “We’ve all the service that people want to come by, be it by tram, bus or cab. The density of people around it is bananas ... And particularly people are conscious of costs. They want to go out, have the craic, but they don’t want to feel they can only do this once a fortnight. I think with our offerings, this works within [that budget].”

A half-capacity opening night on Friday, May 17th, will see a Brazilian dance show and DJs, while Saturday’s event will play host to 2FM’s Dave Treacy and other DJs. “It’ll be big. It’ll be loud. It’ll be really spectacular,” Harrington says. “We’re not out here for the first couple of weeks just to fill it, we want to make it comfortable and savour the experience.”

Harrington says the modern-day clubber is different because they are far more travelled than in the past. “Ryanair has done more for this business than anyone,” he says. “They gave them these experiences across Prague, Amsterdam and all across the UK. And equally they bring people in who make demands based on what they’ve seen in other countries. They want nice bar service, drinks service properly, they want the place to be spotless.”

He says standards have been elevated amid a cultural mixing air travel has afforded. “I think if people have a good experience, it reflects [well on the capital] ... We’re blessed, on D’Olier street. We’re really at the crossroads of the capital. Really, really blessed.”

Conor Capplis

Conor Capplis

Conor Capplis is a journalist with the Irish Times Group