A Limerick 'wet' pub was open for just two hours yesterday before it shut its doors after a garda request.
Publican Gearoid Whelan opened Whelan's Bar on Maiden Street, Newcastle West at 10.50am yesterday morning, serving pints but not food, despite the public health requirement for pubs which do not serve food to remain closed until at least August 10.
On the stroke of 1pm, two gardaí entered the pub and advised him to cease trading.
"I don't agree with it, I still don't see [why]. We are doing nothing wrong, there’s nothing illegal going on," said Mr Whelan.
"I’ve massive respect for the gardaí and we wouldn't have a business without them so, for the moment, I’m going to close my doors."
Asked if gardaí had advised him he could possibly face legal penalties if he continued to remain open, he said: “Let's just say, long term it might not be the best for me to stay open.
“I’m disappointed, but all I wanted to show was that we can do this. Everyone that was here this morning saw we can offer a Covid-safe, socially distanced, enjoyable atmosphere, for a couple of pints."
During the two-hour opening, the pub served around 50 customers who supped pints without food.
Pat Reddy, from Ardagh, was one of the first in the door. The 62-year old said the request for wet houses to close was “an injustice”.
“I think it is great the Whelan’s took the stance on this. A big mistake has been made by the government, and I hope they look at this and move on from it,” Mr Reddy added.
Michael Devine, Newcastle West, and his four-legged friend Patrick, were also enjoying refreshments.
Mr Devine said, “I live in a cottage in a little village so, rural areas have been decimated, and the only outing we had (pre-coronavirus) was mass and a couple of pints in the local bar.
“Farming communities have been reduced to waving at each other as we pass cars going in opposite directions — that’s what rural life has become since last March - I understand the premise for it, Covid-19, but it’s just unbelievable."
Jamie Mullane, 19, said he agreed with Whelan opening up.
He said: “We came in to support Gearoid. He’s sticking his neck out on the line, opening up the pub when no one else would.
“We share a similar opinion to him. How can thousands come through the airports and a couple of locals can’t come down to the pub. There isn’t much difference in us having a meal here, and how is that going to spread the virus more than just having a pint?”
Gearoid’s mother Pauline, a nurse in a local nursing home, said in her view, the pub was safe.
Mrs Whelan greeted customers at the door, directed them to wash their hands in sanitizer gel, collected their names for contact tracing, and took their temperatures as they entered.
“They’re all very delighted and very supportive of us to be able to open our door after four and half months," Mrs Whelan said.
The proprietor’s message to the government was clear: “Just give us a chance. Let us prove that we can do this, that’s all we ask.”