Directors and management of the Berlin D2 bar have apologised in court for breaking covid-19 social distance guidelines during a “boozy brunch” that went viral on social media.
Footage emerged in August of non-compliance with social distance guide-lines in response to the pandemic.
A video was shared on social media of patrons in the popular bar restaurant on Dame Lane in Dublin city-centre on August 15th last.
A masked staff member, Bernardo Quinn, danced on the bar as he poured shots into dancing customers’ mouths during the controversial bar brunch event which ran from 1pm to 4pm.
The event, split into two sittings, featured a DJ set, and was advertised as “A Very Boozy Baked Brunch With Your Buds”.
Customers were supposed to stay no more than one hour and 45 minutes in accordance with public health guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus.
The advert entitled patrons to food and cocktails and encouraged them to wear “craziest cookest clobber so get your glad rags out”. The footage went viral online and triggered a garda objection to the venue retaining their licences.
Former manager, businessman Jay Bourke, described it as “30 seconds of madness” when he commented to the media. The bar shut for a week and staff underwent a day of retraining.
However, gardai obtained CCTV footage and lodged licence objections at Dublin District Court where Judge Marie Quirke has examined the video evidence.
The hearing resumed today with directors and management giving evidence and facing cross-examination. Judge Quirke will give her ruling on May 26th next.
Berlin D2 bar, operated by Trillium Leisure Ltd, contests the application. The venue’s barrister Dorothy Collins (instructed by solicitor Ursula Courtney), told Judge Quirke that Mr Bourke ceased involvement in running the bar.
It was conceded that three public health guidelines were breached in relation to the two-metre social distancing rule, some staff not wearing masks at all times and drinks were served at the counter rather than table service. However, the defence has pointed out that no law was broken.
Tony McGillicuddy BL, for An Garda Siochana, submitted that the restaurant was more concerned about the social media reaction than the public health risks.
Berlin D.2 manager Stephen McCusker told the court today that the restaurant bar had 30 staff and about 150 artists were allowed perform there. Jay Bourke’s role was to be an advisor to help make contacts with various businesses but he is no longer involved.
He said that two other staff members, John Duggan and Bernardo Quinn were suspended for a week after the event. The backlash after the event was 95 per cent negative, involved verbal abuse and staff were frightened, he said.
The restaurant closed for a week as representatives of the company and their lawyers met with gardaí. An apology was later put on the front window saying “sorry, we messed up”, he told the court.
He said he had expected the event promoter would use a DJ and it did not concern him. There were 46 people over two sittings, but the customers arrived intermittently. He told the court he was helping out in the kitchen in the day of the event, and he had he left at 3pm. He was out of public view and only saw the event later on the CCTV footage, he said.
Mr McCusker accepted there were breaches of social distance guidelines: “Absolutely, and I apologise for that,” he said.
Customs officers Deirdre Furlong and Audrey Murphy had told the court that they were asked to check compliance at the venue on September 10th last. They booked a table for a meal and some drink and after the maximum stay of 90 minutes they were asked if they wanted to stay longer.
They were told they could start a new bill because gardaí were carrying out checks. Mr McCusker agreed he had spoken to them, and he did not challenge their evidence.
The court heard gardaí, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), Bord Failte and the restaurant association of Ireland issued guidelines which were well publicised. There were also media reports that gardai would object to licences of premises that broke them.
Trillium Leisure Ltd director Simon Blake Knox, said Berlin D2 was not a member of the LVA or the restaurant association. A large investment would be lost if Berlin D.2 lost the case, he said.
Fiona Kelly, also a director, said Bord Failte guidelines were followed as much as possible and she was sorry. “There was so much we could have done better during that event, there has been such a high price to pay, and the repercussions on people’s mental health. It could have been done better,” she said.
She did not reply when asked if she was concerned it could have been a super-spreader event. She accepted, however, that the Covid-19 risk increased if there was no compliance with the guidelines.
Ms Kelly accepted that the directors had not issued a statement expressing their views and that four words scrawled on the window “sorry we messed up” had been the only apology.