Garda issues first ‘immediate closure order’ against premises in northwest

Gardaí find pubs with up to 200 people on-site with no food or social distancing

Gardaí issued the first “immediate closure order” against a pub over the weekend for repeatedly failing to comply with Covid-19 restrictions.

The Garda released details of the order along with other examples of licensed premises it discovered breaking the rules over the past 48 hours.

These include a Dublin pub with up to 200 people on-site at 10.30pm with no food and no social distancing, and a hotel in the northwest with 100 people in its function room, another 50 in the downstairs lounge and cars continuing to arrive as gardaí attended.

Other infractions detected around the country included bar staff altering food receipts, serving reheated pizzas as a substantial meal and the operation of a shebeen with 30 people present.

In one incident the Garda used gambling legislation to search a private home where a card game was taking place. Inside were eight people from eight different households.

Under Level 3 restriction, pubs must serve a substantial meal, prepared on the premises, in order to serve alcohol. They must also close at 11.30pm and comply with other public health measures.

Section 4 of Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Act, 2020 gives gardaí the power to immediately close a premises found in breach of the rules.

In most cases to date gardaí have been encouraging pub owners to comply with the rules rather than bringing enforcement actions. However, over the weekend gardaí in the northwest of the country opted to issue the first immediate closure order against a premises.

The order was issued after gardaí repeatedly engaged with the pub owner to bring him into compliance. In a statement, the Garda said officers continued to observe breaches of Covid-19 regulations, including the refusal to serve substantial meals and non-adherence to public health guidelines.

This prompted the local superintendent to order the pub be closed immediately. A file is to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

"The vast majority of licensed premises are operating in compliance with public health regulations. Unfortunately, despite this being said by An Garda Síochána numerous times before, disappointingly it appears it must be said again to some licensed premises," Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said.

“Licensed premises that are not adhering to public health regulations are not only committing an offence, but putting at risk the health of their staff, their customers, and their local community.”

Other breaches detected by the Garda over the weekend are detailed below.

Dublin region

• A licensed premises with 180-200 people present. No food was being served and no social distancing was evident.

• A licensed premises inspected at 1.30am with 25 people inside and fresh pints pulled. No food was being served and no social distancing was evident.

In the southern region

• A pub inspected at 12.35am. Thirty people were seated inside with full drinks and no food.

• A pub with 20-25 people seated inside after-hours with fresh drinks. The owner was sitting at a table with customers and there was no social distancing. Drinkers at another table were “observed in a huddle talking with arms around each other”. Staff did not wear face masks and there was no evidence of any food service.

• A pub where the food preparation area was not located on-site but rather under a gazebo by the smoking area.

• A pub where food preparation consisted of an oven used to heat pizzas.

Northwest region

• A hotel contained 100 people in the function room and another 50 in the lobby. “No social distancing, no food served, groups gathered on tables numbering 12 or more, a number of persons intoxicated in the room,” the Garda said. Cars continued to arrive at the hotel while gardaí were there and had to be turned back.

• A pub with 80 people inside and little evidence of food consumption. There were no times in the contact tracing register and no food order book. Staff produced nine individual receipts for food with an average of three meals on each. However, the dates on these had been changed. An inspection of the kitchen showed no food was being cooked.

Eastern region

• A sports club with 20 people present. There was no food on the tables, no chef present and no contact tracing list.

• A house which was searched under the Gaming and Lotteries Act. Inside were eight people taking part in a card game, all from different households.

• A suspected shebeen with 30 people present. “People wore no face coverings, no social distancing, and were consuming intoxicating liquor, evidence seized.”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times