Gardaí Instructed To Use Discretion In Relation To Outdoor Drinking
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has instructed gardaí to use discretion in relation to outdoor drinking.
As reported by rte.ie, gardaí stated in a Twitter post, "Commissioner Harris issued an instruction to regional Assistant Commissioners that gardaí should use discretion in relation to licenced premises while also continuing to respond to any public complaints received on matters such as public order, parking, noise etc."
Minister For Justice Statements
The commissioner's instruction reportedly comes after Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys said that she talked to Harris about the legal issues concerning outdoor drinking and he told her that gardaí will apply discretion.
Humphreys reportedly said that there was an issue in one part of the country and urged those involved to "sit down and find a local solution".
Humphreys reportedly said that she also talked to the Attorney General today and he is looking at the situation.
Rte.ie quotes Humphreys as saying, "If there are issues we need to address, we will, and he is currently looking at that for me.
"Government will support the hospitality sector in providing outdoor dining to allow people to go out and enjoy themselves as we recover from this pandemic."
Humphreys reportedly said that she is confident that outdoor dining and drinking will be able to continue and that the gardaí have her full support, and reportedly added, "For most people, they’ve had a really good weekend, and I’d like that to continue."
Doubts About The Legality Of Outdoor Dining And Drinking Spaces
The government facilitated extra outdoor space at food and drinks venues for customers to dine and drink outside under an outdoor seating scheme, but doubts were reportedly raised about the legality of such services by gardaí in Galway, who reportedly said that alcohol consumption in these spaces is not permitted unless specifically provided for in a court-obtained liquor licence or where by-laws permit consuming alcohol in public.
The Galway City Joint Policing Committee has reportedly requested more clarity from the government, and also wants national emergency legislation to address the issue of on-street drinking introduced.
A gardaí statement reportedly said that licenced premises can only sell alcohol as a takeaway service or to be consumed on a premises, and what constitutes a premises is detailed in venues' liquor licences, with anything outside of that, including on-street drinking areas, not being covered. After that, it reportedly depends on whether local authorities allow alcohol to be consumed in public.
Rte.ie quotes the Department of Justice as saying in a statement that venues that "continue to behave responsibly in controlling their premises should have nothing to worry about", and that there are different legal situations depending on whether by-laws apply.
The Department of Justice reportedly noted that a small minority of pubs have been serving alcohol to those seated outside in what it described as "agreed areas", and said that these will be "the focus of any garda action in the first instance".
RAI CEO Statements
Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) CEO Adrian Cummins reportedly told RTÉ's Morning Ireland radio programme that the government has invested €17 million in outdoor hospitality services via Fáilte Ireland grants, and that hospitality venues need to open and trade viably.
Cummins reportedly said that the government should have been aware of this issue when they permitted hospitality venues to provide outdoor services, and called on the ministers for health and justice to bring forward a statutory instrument to give guidance to gardaí that hospitality venues have a legal right to sell alcohol within their designated area outdoors.
According to rte.ie, Cummins said that even when hospitality venues resume indoor services, the government needs to fix this problem, or else it will have been pointless for venues to have invested so much money in outdoor dining operations.
Rte.ie quotes Cummins as saying, "We shouldn't be talking about this issue."
VFI CEO Statements
Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI) CEO Padraig Cribben reportedly said it was clear to him two weeks ago that some ambiguity and possibility for confusion existed within the guidelines for outdoor hospitality.
Cribben reportedly said on Morning Ireland that he wrote to the Department of Justice to say that garda discretion is not being evenly administered, and requested clarity.
Cribben reportedly called on Humphreys to bring forward a statutory instrument to address these grey areas over the next three to four months.
Cribben reportedly also said that policy and direction need to arrive quickly.
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