Gardaí unite with businesses in call for clarity on 'no man's land' outdoor drinking rules

ireland
Gardaí Unite With Businesses In Call For Clarity On 'No Man's Land' Outdoor Drinking Rules Gardaí Unite With Businesses In Call For Clarity On 'No Man's Land' Outdoor Drinking Rules
Gardaí have said that pubs and restaurants are not legally permitted to serve alcohol in temporary outdoor seating areas. Photo: Getty Images.
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Vivienne Clarke

Gardaí, publicans and restaurateurs are united in calls for clarity on the serving of alcohol in temporary outdoor seating areas.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI), the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) and the Garda Representative Association (GRA) are all seeking greater clarity about the legislation surrounding outdoor dining and the consumption of alcohol.

It comes after gardaí confirmed that pubs and restaurants are not legally permitted to serve alcohol in temporary outdoor seating areas, as they are not covered by licensing laws.

Brendan O’Connor, vice president of the GRA, told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that there was “absolute confusion” about the legislation and individual gardaí were being expected to police the issue using discretion and common sense.

Gardaí were expected to act if they observed any breach of the law, but who would be held accountable for those decisions, he asked.

No man's land

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The GRA was seeking clear guidelines for its members, Mr O'Connor said, so they would not be held accountable for discretionary decisions.

The public was receiving mixed messages and as a result did not know what to expect. Gardaí were facing allegations of inaction and also of being overzealous, so guidance was necessary, he said.

“When things go wrong our members are left very vulnerable and then have to defend their actions.”

Meanwhile, VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben told the same programme that he had written to the Minister for Justice on June 10th seeking clarity on the issue and expressing concern that Garda discretion would not be imposed evenly across the country.

The hospitality sector had been told to prepare for an outdoor summer, grants were given for outdoor seating, streets were closed off, he said, but there was still ambiguity about Section 254 areas where local authorities had granted permission for outdoor hospitality services.

Mr Cribben added that gardaí had been left in “no man’s land” and that was why direction was needed.

'Deeply disappointing'

RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins meanwhile called on the Government to bring forward a statutory instrument to provide clarity for businesses serving alcohol to outdoor diners.

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Gardaí using “discretion” when policing was no solution for businesses who have found themselves illegally serving alcohol in temporary outdoor seating areas, he said.

Mr Cummins pointed out that €17 million had been granted to the hospitality sector to provide outdoor dining facilities, so it was “deeply disappointing” for this issue to now arise.

The Government should have known about this when they allowed hospitality to reopen

“The Government should have known about this when they allowed hospitality to reopen,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

Businesses needed to be able to operate viably and needed to know what was going to happen on July 5th when indoor dining was due to return, Mr Cummins added. It was “pointless” to have provided funding for outdoor facilities and then for this to happen.

Mr Cummins responded to a comment by the acting Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys, who said in a tweet on Sunday evening that gardaí will use “discretion” when engaging with licensed premises over outdoor drinking.

Discretion was the key word, Mr Cummins said. Gardaí in Galway had approached businesses pointing out that it was not legal to have alcohol consumed outside their premises.

The same issue could crop up in every county and highlighted the need for clarity, he said.

Licensed premises across the country have been given permission to set up outdoor seating areas by local councils, with many set up on paths or in front of businesses as a solution until indoor dining is allowed.

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Outdoor drinking illegal in temporary seating area...
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However, gardaí have said these areas are not covered by alcohol licenses originally issued by the District Court, meaning the sale of alcohol for consumption in the areas is illegal.

Indoor dining and drinking will be permitted from July 5th under the Government's current reopening plan.

Gardaí did not confirm whether they will enforce the ban on drinking in temporary outdoor areas.

However, RTÉ reported several pubs in Galway have been told they are in breach of health restrictions by gardaí.

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