Eleven publicans were found in breach of Covid-19 measures when their premises were inspected by gardaí last week, a significant decrease on previous non-compliance rates.
When gardaí began inspecting pubs for compliance with Covid-19 measures the weekend before last, July 3rd to 5th, they found 26 potential breaches. However, over the following week a much lower number of 11 breaches was found as the inspection process, titled Operation Navigation, continued.
In all 37 alleged breaches detected by gardaí since Friday, July 3rd, the publicans were found to be serving alcohol without serving food, which was one of the requirements for pubs reopening at the end of June.
“In all these cases, gardaí found customers consuming alcohol, but no evidence of food also being consumed and no evidence of receipts to show that food had been sold,” Garda Headquarters said.
Gardaí also found breaches of the liquor licensing laws and health and safety regulations in some pubs. This included some premises where inspections had been carried out the previous week and breaches of laws and regulations were highlighted, only for gardaí to call back and find no improvements made.
However, despite the 11 pubs found not selling food last week and the breaches of liquor and health and safety legislation, gardaí say last week was marked by overwhelming levels of compliance with laws and public health measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.
While there were worrying scenes the weekend before last in Dublin, with revellers gathering in large numbers on Dame Lane, there was no repeat of those scenes observed by gardaí last week.
"The continued high level of compliance among licensed premises is very welcome," said Deputy Commissioner, Policing and Security, John Twomey.
“However, there remains a minority who are putting their employees, their customers and their local community at risk of getting Covid-19.
“Customers of such licensed premises also have a responsibility to play their part in reducing the spread of Covid-19 to protect their family, friends and neighbours.”
Operation Navigation was established so gardaí could inspect pubs to ensure they were complying with conditions set out for the reopening of such establishments. These conditions include the requirement for drinkers to also buy a substantial meal, as well as pre-booking, customers only staying in a pub for a maximum of 105 minutes, and adhering to social distancing.
However, gardaí do not have the power to take any action when they find publicans who are not following the public health measures, which are advice rather than regulations that can be criminally investigated.
Gardaí can alert the Health and Safety Authority, which could apply for a closure order for a pub if conditions were regarded as posing a risk to the health and welfare of staff. Furthermore, in cases where breaches are found, gardaí could, in time, object in the courts to the renewal of the licences of the premises in question.
Those are provisions under longstanding legislation and do not relate specifically to Covid-19. Gardaí have been given no specific powers to deal with pubs during the pandemic period and could not, for example, close a pub on the spot if they were very concerned about what they found during inspections.