By Tom Tuite
A judge has refused to grant a late bar extension in a test case brought to ensure pubs in Dublin would be allowed serve alcohol after normal closing times on Good Friday.
In January legislation amending the Intoxicating Liquor Act was passed allowing pubs and other licensed premises across the country to open and legally serve alcohol on the religious holiday for the first time in almost 100 years.
However, after the lifting of the booze ban, applications for special exemptions orders for late bars in licensed premises in Dublin on the holy day, which falls on March 30 next, were lodged at the district court.
Dorothy Collins BL, for the Red Cow Inn on the Naas Road, D. 22, told Dublin District Court their application was being treated as a test case; it was supported by the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and if they were refused an appeal would be launched.
In their case the request was for a special exemptions order to run from Good Friday into the early hours of Saturday, March 31 next.
The barrister furnished the court with a copy of the recent change to the Intoxicating Liquor Act which has repealed any reference to Good Friday and she said that it was now “deemed to be an ordinary Friday”.
The application had the support of the LVA, the trade association and representative body for the publicans of Dublin, Judge Coghlan was told. Gardai were not objecting to the applications, the court also heard.
Ms Collins said 110 premises had similar applications pending in the same court for special exemptions orders and the majority of them related to Good Friday.
She submitted that it was an extremely important holiday period for Dublin, particularly in relation to tourists, and the legislature has now decided that it was no different in law to any other day.
Further submissions were made by Constance Cassidy SC, representing a number of pubs in Dublin. She also argued that the amendment converted Good Friday into an ordinary weekday.
However, Judge Coghlan refused the application and ruled that there was already a liberal availability of late night entertainment and access to alcohol in Dublin over the period and he was of the view there was neither a need nor was it desirable that special exemption orders be granted in Dublin metropolitan area based venues for the periods leading from Holy Thursday into Good Friday and from Good Friday into Holy Saturday.
The decision, which has ramifications for all licensed venues in the capital, is to be appealed in the Circuit Court tomorrow/Friday.
Ms Collins, for the Red Cow Inn, had furnished the court with a letter from the LVA pleading with the court to grant special exemptions orders made by its members in relation to Good Friday.
The LVA stated in its submission: “Our rational was that Good Friday should be treated like a normal Friday from a licensing perspective. This should include the possibility of obtaining special exemption orders on Holy Thursday and Good Friday night in order to serve the obvious demand for late bars in Dublin across this key trading weekend”.
Red Cow Inn general manager John O’Shea told the licensing court that due to the nature and location of their businesses they had a large number of customers from the general public, tourists and private functions.
They can have up to 1,500 people on the premises but there was no public transport at the location and it was important to stagger exit times, at midnight, 1am and 2.30 am, so people could leave safely.
He said their regulars came from as far as 15 to 20 miles away.
Ms Collins submitted that a special exemption order could only be refused if there was reason to be believe there was a threat to public safety.
The case related only to licensed premises in Dublin. Other similar applications in the same court were adjourned until March 21.