The Government is to step in and regulate the serving of alcohol by restaurants and pubs in temporary seating outside their premises, amid confusion over the legality of the practice.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the Government will introduce a “legal instrument” or statutory regulation to deal with the issue, according to The Irish Times.
It comes after gardaí, publicans and restaurateurs called for clarity on the legislation surrounding outdoor dining and alcohol consumption, after An Garda Síochána said businesses are not legally permitted to serve alcohol in temporary outdoor seating areas.
When will you legislate to end the fiasco factory that is hammering the hospitality sector
In the Dáil today, Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín asked Mr Martin “when will you legislate to end the fiasco factory that is hammering the hospitality sector”.
Mr Martin told the TD that the issue will be dealt with quickly: “The Minister of Justice will be introducing a measure that will rectify this and regulate it appropriately.”
Mr Martin said that “any issues that need to be resolved will be resolved through a legal instrument, but look there can be no question but that the opening up in terms of outdoor dining and hospitality has worked and has been effective”.
'Minister for making things up as you go'
On Monday, Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys said the Government would examine whether further measures were required but said that gardaí would use discretion to allow such on-street service to continue.
Mr Tóibín accused Ms Humphreys of being the “Minister for making things up as you go along” and said her “concoction” of a solution was to “call on gardaí to close their eyes and say nothing”.
“Restaurants and pubs will in many parts of the country operate at the pleasure of local gardaí. Discretion could mean that one restaurant maybe treated differently than another,” he said.
I have never seen a government tie itself up in knots with such confusion before
Many pubs and restaurants have applied to their local authority and paid for extra public liability for the public areas that they are using, he said, adding that gardaí are worried they will be “scapegoated for impossible decisions that have to be made”.
“I have never seen a government tie itself up in knots with such confusion before,” Mr Tóibín added.
The Taoiseach described the TD’s comments as “hyperbole” and “not a fair assessment of where we are”.
He said: “I invite you to come to Cork and have walk down a few streets in Cork and you’ll see some great outdoor dining going on. I was in Dublin yesterday, I called to a number of venues, people were in a very happy mood, dining outdoors having a few drinks outdoors, engaging in a friendly way.”