Pub substantial meal rules a ‘farce’ like being on set of Darby O’Gill and the Little People

Regulations about defining a gastropub - serving a meal, ’ not crisps and a pint’

Darby O’Gill and the Little People: Albert Sharpe and Jimmy O’Dea in Walt Disney’s 1959 film

Darby O’Gill and the Little People: Albert Sharpe and Jimmy O’Dea in Walt Disney’s 1959 film


Visitors to Ireland might think they are on the film set of Darby O’Gill and the Little People with the requirement for pubs to serve a “substantial meal”, according to the Covid-19 committee chairman.

Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara described as “farcical” the situation around guidelines for pub openings at the end of June along with restaurants.

He suggested it would come as a surprise to international tours that a “substantial meal will somehow protect them from Covid-19” following the guidelines that such a meal valued at a minimum of €9 must be served by pubs.

But Fáilte Ireland chief executive Paul Kelly said the requirement to serve a meal was an indicator that a particular pub was “acting like a restaurant and serving food like a restaurant”, and that scenario is in place until 20th of July”.

He said “it was really about defining what was a gastro pub – (serving) a meal as opposed to crisps and a pint”.

Both men were speaking during a committee session dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the tourism and education sector.


Mr McNamara asked if there was a danger that one person’s substantial meal might not be substantial to another as he jokingly asked if caviar would be considered substantial. He said it had become farcical and he would not like his livelihood determined by such farce.

Mr Kelly said “I do appreciate in everything we need to have a bit of humour but this is really important to an awful lot of people”.

They were expecting and seeing very high compliance with the public health advice.

“It’s a substantial meal and it has to be €9 or more… If a pub is serving a packet of crisps or a tiny bit of caviar for €9 then they’re not being compliant with that. This is about creating a safe environment for people to be able to go out.”

Mr McNamara, a barrister, said there was no “penal provision” around implementation of the rule to provide a substantial meal as he asked if Fáilte Ireland would be policing the provision.

Direct of industry development at the tourism agency Jenny de Saulles said the HSA (Health and Safety Authority) the HSE and Fáilte Ireland “will all be assessing businesses within the tourism industry - so it’s a combination of all three” and they would be coming together to inspect premises.

The committee chairman also questioned the lack of regulations about live music and asked if a pub could have live music if substantial meals were being served.

“How do musicians - if they’re spaced properly – make the environment less safe” he asked.

“How are they a threat to health? It’s a serious question – when is that anticipate dot change.”

Mr Kelly said it was fundamentally a public health question. “I do know from my conversations with the public – it is not the presence of the musicians or any other profession. It’s about how does the crowd react and how do you draw the line around that.”