Extension for Operation of Hospitality Outdoor Seating Areas

Extension for Operation of Hospitality Outdoor Seating Areas

At O’Flynn Exhams LLP, we represent many clients in the hospitality industry, some no more than a stone’s throw away in the trend-setting Princes Street area of Cork, which is home to many of the pioneers in outdoor dining and hospitality, with the initiative devised and developed at a crunch time when these business owners were faced with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prior to the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2021 (“the 2021 Act”) which was first introduced in July 2021, unless a part of a premises was specifically licensed, alcohol could not be served or consumed in that area. In many Irish towns and cities, the consumption of alcohol on public streets, even outside licensed premises, was further prohibited under local bye-laws. The new law was first introduced last year when An Garda Síochana had raised concerns that temporary outdoor areas for eating and drinking, introduced during Covid-19 restrictions, were not covered by the licensing laws.

Following the enactment of the 2021 Act, the sale and consumption of alcohol was allowed in relevant outdoor seating areas, to encourage patrons to sit outdoors to limit the spread of Covid-19 and to support the crippled hospitality businesses.

The provisions of the 2021 Act, were due to expire on 31st May this year. The Cabinet has now approved the six-month extension of the legislation until 30th November this year, on foot of a memo brought before it by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee. It will allow pubs and restaurants to serve alcohol, without the requirement to apply for a special licence, in outdoor seated areas until 11pm this summer.

The legislation applies to areas where outdoor seating areas have been approved by the relevant local authority on public land, such as a path or an adjoining area to the licenced premises or where they are on private land abutting the licensed premises, such as a yard.

The Minister plans to bring forward a longer term solution as part of wider reforms of licencing law. It is hoped that a draft of such a bill will be published before the summer, with the intention that it would be enacted later on this year.

A spokesman for the VFI, which represents thousands of pubs outside Dublin, said this was “welcome news from the Minister”. The Restaurant Association of Ireland has also welcomed the extension, saying it has been lobbying the Government on the matter for weeks.

If you would like further information on any legal aspect of the hospitality business, including the real estate, licensing or financing aspects, please contact Joan Byrne, Micheál Ó Mulláin or Aeibhin Cahalan  in the OFX Commercial Property Department.

Joan Byrne