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For Ireland, the party is over

Top-end restaurants and nightclubs go dark as disposable income dries up.

A reveler dances on St. Patrick's Day in Dublin. But the high-living, high-spending party atmosphere in Dublin has evaporated as a result of the global economic recession. (Paul McErlane/Reuters)

DUBLIN — The Lonely Planet Guide to Dublin lists Reynards nightclub on South Frederick Street as Colin Farrell’s “favorite den of iniquity.” The movie star and other prominent Irish personalities, such as Bono, have been known to enjoy the “difficult access” upstairs bar in this posh establishment.

Night-clubbers turned away by the Reynards bouncers could always try Pal Joey in Temple Bar, which according to “indulges the hedonist in us all,” or Tram Co. in the upscale suburb of Rathmines, which promises a “cool experience over three floors.”

These trendy night spots, which epitomized the “roaring naughties” in Dublin, have one thing in common: They have all just closed. The doors have been padlocked, the rope lines taken away and the bouncers paid off.

For Ireland the party is over. The glitzy playgrounds of the Celtic Tiger are deserted. The recession has forced a number of the most expensive clubs and restaurants out of business. (Late-night joints have also been hit by new licensing restrictions.)

This time last year Dublin was a top destination for Irish and European celebrities, and was enjoying a newly secured international reputation for the quality of its cuisine. High-end diners had to brush up on their French as coq au vin and blanquette de veau replaced the traditional meat and two veg on restaurant menus.

Some 25 of the 550 restaurants belonging to the Restaurants Association of Ireland have now shut down because of the recession, according to the body’s chief executive, Adrian Cummins.

“The corporate market has shrunk and we will see more contraction, unfortunately,” said Cummins, who also blames steep value added tax (VAT) rates and minimum wages that are higher than in other European countries, as well as high rents, and the excessive cost of importing foodstuffs.

Most catering businesses are operating on a knife edge because cash and credit in Ireland are in historically short supply. The country has been in recession since the second quarter of 2008 and Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute predicts the economy will contract by 14 percent by the end of 2009.