There has been no breach of licensing laws by pubs serving alcohol outside their premises, according to the author of the definitive guide on licensing laws in Ireland.
Constance Cassidy SC told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that there were three sets of regulations at play – Covid regulations, the licensing laws and local authority by-laws.
In her opinion there was no breach of licensing laws by allowing the drinking of alcohol outside premises, once the transaction of purchasing the alcohol took place on the licensed premises.
It comes after gardaí said pubs and restaurants are not legally permitted to serve alcohol in temporary outdoor seating areas, as they are not covered by licensing laws.
Ms Cassidy said there was no need for gardaí to exercise discretion in policing outdoor drinking, as had been suggested by the acting Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys.
Once there were no public order offences, the law was clear and there was no breach in allowing the consumption of alcohol outside a premises, the barrister said.
However, Ms Cassidy acknowledged that in some cases there could be local authority by-laws which prohibit the consumption of alcohol outside premises.
The gardaí were to be commended for their handling of the situation to date, she added.
Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan welcomed Ms Cassidy’s clarification, but said it was unfortunate that there was still “some confusion” and added that the hospitality sector deserved clarity.
There could not be a situation where a Garda Superintendent in one part of the country took a position, while another Superintendent in a different part of the country had a different interpretation, he said. “It’s a complicated process.”
The obligation rested with the State and the Garda Commissioner to offer clarity and if there was any uncertainty then the Minister for Justice needed to ensure that such uncertainty was removed, Mr O’Callaghan said.
Publicans and restaurant owners needed to be assured that they were operating legally, he said. “We need to ensure there is no confusion.”
It comes after gardaí, publicans and restaurateurs united in calls for clarity this morning 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) all sought greater clarity about the legislation surrounding outdoor dining and the consumption of alcohol.