Enforcement of nightclub vaccine passes to be legal requirement, with limited Garda role

Health inspectors will work on compliance, while Garda have the power to object to late-night licences

Enforcement of the vaccine-pass system in late venues will be carried out by health inspectors. Image: iStock

Enforcement of the vaccine-pass system in late venues will be carried out by health inspectors. Image: iStock

 

Enforcement of vaccine passes in nightclubs and music venues will be a legal requirement, but gardaí will have a limited role in its enforcement.

On Tuesday, the Government announced late-night venues will be permitted to reopen under strict conditions, including that customers produce a valid document showing they have had the Covid-19 vaccine.

This system will function in the same way as it has applied to pubs and restaurants since the start of the summer.

Checking for vaccine passes will be a legal requirement, but enforcement will primarily be a matter for the HSE and the Health and Safety Authority rather than the Garda, a Department of Health spokesman said.

Enforcement of the vaccine-pass system in late venues will be carried out by health inspectors who will work with offending venues “to bring them into compliance,” the Department of Health spokesman said.

If this fails, the venue may be referred to the Garda who have the power to object to late night licences in the District Court.

“Members of An Garda Síochána are not ‘compliance officers’’ in respect of the current regulations.

Any change to that will require a change in statutory regulations, which are a matter for the Department of Health,” a Garda spokesman said.

“An Garda Síochána continues to provide ongoing support to Government response to the Covid-19 pandemic and business and society through our normal daily policing functions where required.”

Late-night venues in Dublin are required to go before the courts on a monthly basis to renew their late-opening venues.

“If there is any suggestion they weren’t complying with the Covid requirements, the guards could object to their special exemption orders in the court,” said Dorothy Collins, a barrister specialising in licensing law. “And they would end up not getting the order.”

It is understood no premises have been closed to date for not complying with the vaccine pass requirements.

The Garda will still have a role in policing the wearing of face masks in certain areas.

However, prosecutions for this offence have all but ceased, according to Garda sources. In August, the latest month for which figures are available, just one person was charged with failing to wear a mask.

The Government also announced on Tuesday that nightclubs will not have to pay any fees to secure late-night licences for the remainder of the year. Ordinarily, nightclubs have to pay €410 per night for a “special exemption order (SEO)”.

Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said these fees will be waived until 2022, following on from a previous decision to waive pub and restaurant licensing fees.

However, late night-venues will still have to apply for their licence in court every month.

“The Government is acutely aware of the unique circumstances which licence holders, and in particular those serving in the late-night trade, have found themselves in as a result of Covid-19. I know we all see the value and importance of supporting these businesses and the night time economy to get back on their feet,” Ms Humphreys said.

“This measure is particularly intended to support those in the night time economy who will reopen this Friday for the first time in 18 months.”