Hundreds of inspectors to monitor pub restrictions

Publicans will not face criminal sanction if in breach of Covid-19 rules

The restrictions on newly reopened pubs will be monitored by hundreds of health-and-safety inspectors and Fáilte Ireland staff but premises will face no criminal sanctions for breaking the rules.

Where there are breaches, pubs may be inspected by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) or face difficulty in renewing their licence, the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) has said. But there will be no criminal penalties.

About 60 per cent of pubs in Dublin and 40 per cent in the rest of the country reopened on Monday, 15 weeks after being ordered to close their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In order to reopen, pubs must follow a strict rules including ensuring one-metre social distancing, limiting customers to a 105-minute stay and serving a hot meal worth at least €9 to all customers.


There has been some confusion about how the regulations will be policed and what sanctions pubs could face for defying them.

Some publicans have said they will defy the guidelines, including the owner of Oscars Bar in Dublin who said he would allow drinkers to stay for up to three hours as he believed this was safer.


The measures are to be monitored by more than 500 inspectors. These will be mainly drawn from the HSA with some coming from the Department of Agriculture and Food and the Health Service Executive environmental health service.

The inspections are being overseen by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. A department spokeswoman said the inspectors have been actively monitoring other businesses since phase one of reopening began. The department estimated that more than 5,000 inspections have been carried out to date. “This intensive inspection regime will continue during phase three,” the spokeswoman said.

She said that analysis of inspections so far in relation to other businesses had indicated a high level of compliance and that “businesses are generally taking a responsible and proactive approach”.

Phase three of reopenings will also see inspections by Fáilte Ireland staff “who will carry out a series of spot checks across various sectors on businesses that are successfully granted the Fáilte Ireland safety charter,” the department said.

Tourist and hospitality businesses can sign up for the charter by agreeing to abide by strict infection-control measures.

However, despite the inspection regime, pubs will not face immediate sanction for breaches. A Garda spokesman said it has no role in enforcing the pub guidelines as they are not penal provisions under the emergency coronavirus legislation passed in April.

However, gardaí can still bring criminal charges against the owner of a premises if it contains more than 50 people.

A spokesman for the VFI said that while there were no criminal sanctions for breaching most of the restrictions, there were other risks.

“What we say to members is if you don’t comply you run the risk of a HSA inspection or a risk to your licence renewal in September.

“Publicans and staff should comply with the rules because it’s for the greater good. That’s our position.”

He said for the most part compliance would “effectively be self-policed”. “If people aren’t complying with the rules it will show up on social media and there will be a huge backlash, so it would be a very self-defeating stance to take.”

Hugh Hourican, the owner of the Boar's Head pub in Dublin, which opened on Monday, agreed. "It will be the public who do the monitoring. Everyone has a camera on their phone now."

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times