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Garda Commissioner promises to use 'discretion' in dealing with licencing law to facilitate outdoor hospitality, says minister

Questions have been raised about the legality of selling alcohol to customers in on-street seating.

Outdoor dining on Capel Street in Dublin.
Outdoor dining on Capel Street in Dublin.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

Updated Jun 21st 2021, 8:10 PM

JUSTICE MINISTER HEATHER Humphreys says Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said discretion will be used by the authorities after gardaí warned that alcohol licences are not valid for areas outside pubs and restaurants.

Speaking in Monaghan, the minister said she spoke to the commissioner this morning, stating that Harris told her that the gardaí would “apply discretion” when it comes to outdoor dining. 

This will be asserted in a communication the Garda Commissioner will issue to the wider organisation today, she confirmed.

Humphreys pledged to take legislative action to facilitate outdoor hospitality if it is required, stating that she has spoken to the Attorney General about the issues.

Difficulties appear to be in “one part of the country”, said the minister, who urged those involved to “sit down and find local solutions”.  

The minister said she is “confident” outdoor dining can continue.

Her comments come after questions were raised about the legality of selling alcohol to customers in on-street seating. The issue is set to be discussed by the Joint Policing Committee of Galway City Council.

Humphreys confirmed that the AG is examining if further measures are required from the government and promised to take action, if it is required.

Government sources have said a “quick fix” for this issues is needed if it appears that it will be an issue raised nationwide.

The gardaí earlier said in a statement that licensed premises could only sell alcohol as takeaway or to be consumed on a premises. It added that a business’s liquor licence determines what constitutes a premises.

Local authorities across Ireland have closed off streets or narrowed access to vehicular traffic in order to allow venues to provide a more extensive outdoor service, with indoor hospitality not expected to return until next month.

Chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland Adrian Cummins said members are frustrated and disappointed by the garda statement that indicated that selling alcohol to customers in outdoor areas may be against the law.

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“This is a big issue now for the government. We were all informed a number of weeks ago that outdoor hospitality and the summer of outdoors was the narrative that the government was using,” he told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland programme today.

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Céimin Burke

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