Good Friday in Limerick as pubs open

 

A host of pubs across the country have opened today to serve food and soft drinks on Good Friday for the first time but only bars in Limerick will be able to sell alcohol.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern told The Irish Times in a statement last night that there was nothing in the legislation to stop a publican from opening on Good Friday. However, he said publicans could not sell alcohol unless they have a special exemption from the District Court as is the case in Limerick.

The Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927 introduced restrictions on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday and Christmas Day but several amendments over the years have provided more flexibility for publicans.

Drinkers in Limerick are benefiting from an “area exemption order”, which was introduced in section 10 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1962. This exemption was granted by a District Court judge to cover a special event, the Munster versus Leinster rugby match. It will enable pubs in Limerick to serve alcohol between 6pm and 11.30pm today.

The 1962 Act allows area exemptions to be granted in all parts of the country except Dublin, said Constance Cassidy, an expert on Irish licensing law.

She said an amendment to licensing laws in 2003, which relaxed the old mixed trading provisions in the 1927 Act, has provided publicans with a strongly arguable case that they can open their doors on Good Friday as long as they do not sell alcohol. She added there may be some complexities over this legal right.

The Leopardstown Inn, the Stillorgan Orchard, the Bank on College Green and the Oval in Abbey Street are a few of the pubs in Dublin which plan to keep their doors open for the public.

“We took the decision to open because a lot of our customers want somewhere to go for lunch and watch the rugby match,” said Tony O’Dwyer, owner of the Stillorgan Orchard, who admitted it would be strange not to be serving alcohol on a big rugby match day.

Charlie Chawke, who owns eight pubs in Dublin and Limerick, said he was opening his bars because he realised his licence allowed him to open on Good Friday if he did not sell alcohol. “I don’t expect to make much money but I want to provide a service to people, who are discommoded on Good Friday. The laws should be changed. If you want to go to church that is fine but you don’t spend all day there,” he said.

Because of all the publicity surrounding the decision to grant a special exemption in Limerick and the broadcast of the rugby match on pay TV today many pub owners have decided to open.

“We’re open for business for the first time on Good Friday. We have 14 chefs and I’m expecting a full house tomorrow night for the match,” said Des Reddy, owner of the Leopardstown Inn. He said the policy of banning the sale of alcohol on Good Friday was out-moded and should now be updated by the Government.

In city centre Dublin yesterday several Spanish tourists enjoying a pint in the Temple Bar pub had no idea they would not be able to buy an alcoholic drink on Good Friday.

“That’s a little strange, in fact it’s a lot strange,” said Enara, who is visiting the Republic with several friends from the Basque country.

“In Spain our pubs are open all the time, even on Good Friday. But I don’t think it will be a big problem for us. But if it had of been a Saturday night that may have been different,” she said. Brad Wagner, a tourist from Calgary in Canada, said he had seen warnings posted up in his hotel explaining that many bars would be shut today. “In Canada we don’t drink as much but I’ve been exploring a lot of pubs because its part of the cultural experience in Ireland,” he said.

Many popular pubs in the city centre will remain closed. This includes The Temple Bar, the Norseman and the Long Stone. “We wouldn’t make enough money to justify opening,” said James McKeown, assistant manager of the Long Stone.

For those wanting to buy a drink today pubs at railway stations will serve alcohol to those with a valid travel ticket.