Clarity on emergency licensing legislation needed to resolve outdoor drinking issues

21 June 2021

Responding to reports that the alcohol licenses of pubs and restaurants do not cover the consumption of alcohol in temporary areas, Labour Justice spokesperson Brendan Howlin called on the government to confirm if emergency legislation is now required, adding that discretion is not a viable solution for the hospitality sector.

Deputy Howlin said:

“A plain reading of licensing laws would indicate that serving alcohol in the new temporary areas on streets and public areas set up for pubs and restaurants is not permitted despite local authorities granting permission for it, but the hospitality sector need certainty on this.

“The Minister should provide clarity as quickly as possible about whether emergency licensing legislation is now needed. Discretion is not a solution for the hospitality sector and would put individual Gardaí in an impossible position.

“As the conditions around alcohol licensing is set down in primary law, it would appear emergency legislation is now needed to address this, and the Minister and the Government should confirm this as quickly as possible. Primary law cannot be amended by a statutory instrument.

“The government have for months said it would be an outdoor summer and have invested over €17 million to provide for temporary spaces so it is beyond comprehension that this issue wasn’t addressed over previous months when numerous justice bills came through the Oireachtas.

“It’s clear the outdoor arrangements that have been put in place have been working well for pubs and restaurants, and with full indoor reopening just over two weeks away, the sector needs certainty.

“The Minister can’t just leave this to the discretion of individual gardaí when it comes to how the law is interpreted and applied if there is a major problem here.

“A potential further problem arises because primary legislation, the Intoxicating Liquor Act, deals with the consumption of alcohol in a public place. And section 199 (2) (b) of the Local Government Act prohibits a local authority from making bye-laws for any purpose provision for which is already made by another enactment. Local authorities are not entitled to co-legislate on matters already dealt with in primary legislation.

“What this demonstrates once again is the need for a comprehensive reform and overhaul of our licensing laws to bring them into the 21st century.”

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