Pubs throughout the Republic will now be able to operate during the Covid-19 lockdown, subject to certain restrictions, because of a “lack of clarity” in the liquor licensing laws.
Garda Headquarters has sought legal advice on pubs delivering drinks and selling takeaway beverages from their premises and has been told that both practices do not contravene liquor licensing laws.
As long as drinks, including poured pints, are paid for on a licensed premises they can be delivered to customers.
Takeaway sales are also permitted once those buying drinks in that manner consume them more than 100 metres away from a pub and not in a public place.
The legal advice received by Garda headquarters is being circulated to every Garda member in the country.
It means pubs can operate delivery and off-sales as an “essential service” during the lockdown, like supermarkets, pharmacies, hardware stores and some other businesses.
The legal advice regularises the position of publicans already delivering drinks to their customers’ homes. One such service, the so-called “Guinness Express”, being run by O’Flaherty’s Pub in Buncrana, Co Donegal, was forced to halt deliveries after gardaí intervened last weekend and stopped staff, stating they were preparing a file for the DPP.
Pints of Guinness wrapped in cling film, intended for delivery to customers, were also confiscated, although a spokesman for the pub complained gardaí were unable to tell him what laws staff had broken.
However, after the legal advice received in recent days, such deliveries will be possible once the drinks are paid for in advance to a person on a pub’s premises.
“Holders of on-licences may deliver intoxicating liquor to consumers for consumption in their private residences where the sale takes place at the licensed premises,” the legal advice states.
“The law is unclear whether it is lawful for holders of on-licences to pour, prepare or decant intoxicating liquor at the delivery location, which is a public place. Therefore no offence is committed.”
It adds that “persons may also attend the licensed premises and collect the intoxicating liquor purchased as a takeaway, and the same would be deemed a reasonable excuse” under the Covid-19 regulations allowing people to travel more than five kilometres from their homes if they have a “reasonable excuse”.
However, any drinks purchased as takeaways must be consumed more than 100 metres from the public house. Gardaí have the power to confiscate carry-out drink if they believe it is being sold to be consumed “on the road or in a public place”.