Bill for outdoor serving of alcohol sails through Oireachtas

Bill for outdoor sales of alcohol sails through Oireachtas

A bill to provide clarity and security for bars and restaurants selling alcohol outdoors has sailed through the Oireachtas this week.

The bill passed all the stages of the Dáil on Wednesday, and sped through the Seanad on Friday. It is expected to be signed into law by the President shortly.

Minister of Sate and Galway TD Hildegarde Naughton said “The latest public health advice means that ensuring people can enjoy an outdoor summer this year is more important than ever.”

She added that while there was “understandable disappointment” about the delay in reopening indoor dining, this bill will provide certainty for thousands of businesses and their staff that they can continue to operated outdoors when selling alcohol.

The urgent passage of this legislation was prompted by the fact that Gardaí in Galway approached a number of licenced premises recently, and informed them that it was technically illegal for them to serve alcohol outdoors.

Gardaí noted that licences to serve alcohol are issued by a District Court Judge, and cover a specifically outlined premises. Also thrown into the mix are Galway City’s bylaws which prohibit the consumption of alcohol in public spaces.

After this prompted public outcry, considering how much an outdoor summer has been emphasised in reopening plans, Commissioner Drew Harris delivered instructions to Gardaí nationwide to use discretion in the enforcement of these rules, while also calling for legal clarity on the situation from the legislature.

This Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021 is the answer to that call. Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys said that the government acted quickly to remove any uncertainty on the sale of alcohol in outdoor seating areas.

“This legislation provides the clarity that has been sought and ensures that we can deliver on our commitments for an outdoor summer.”

The Minister thanked the Attorney General, Gardaí, and members of the Oireachtas for enabling the drafting and passage of this legislation in just two weeks.

The text of the Act states that it will:

“Make provision, on a temporary basis, for the sale or supply of intoxicating liquor in certain circumstances in seating areas located outside licensed premises in order to allow, in the public interest and having regard to the manifest and grave risk to human life and public health posed by the spread of the disease known as Covid-19, the businesses of licensees of such premises to operate in a manner that mitigates the spread of that disease; to provide for the application of certain enactments to those outdoor seating areas; to provide for additional enforcement measures in respect of those
outdoor seating areas to ensure compliance with those enactments; to provide for additional bases for objection to renewal of licences and, in the case of clubs, certificates of registration, in respect of such premises, and provide for related matters.”

The provisions of the bill will remain in place until November 30,  but can be extended for up to six months at a time.