The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2021 was first introduced in July 2021, bringing about changes to allow for the sale and consumption of alcohol in relevant outdoor seating areas and giving much-needed certainty to licenced premises during the pandemic.
The provision allowed those publicans and restaurant-owners across the country serving alcohol in relevant outdoor seating areas to operate lawfully.
The Government has now approved her proposal to seek an extension to this legislation for a further six months until 30th November 2022, with the Minister stating that, “I will bring the necessary Motions before the Houses of the Oireachtas at the earliest opportunity in advance of 31st May”.
The current outdoor drinking and dining extension is due to lapse at the end of this month.
Under the extended legislation alcohol may be sold in the applicable areas until 11pm which is considered reasonable and proportionate as a nationwide approach for private land outdoor seating areas.
“While most of the Covid-19 restrictions have now lifted, I’m very aware of how hard our pubs, restaurants and nightclubs have been hit by the restrictions of the past two years,” said the Minister, “Many of these businesses are still struggling and it’s important that we give them the assistance they need to thrive as the busy Summer season approaches. The extension of this legislation is a key support in that regard.”
The legislation, in place since last year, permits pubs and restaurants to sell alcohol outdoors without a special licence and it applies where those outdoor seating areas have been permitted by the relevant local authority on public land such as a path or where they’re on private land abutting the licensed premises such as an abutting yard as provided for in the Act.
Minister Helen McEntee added that the forthcoming legislation on licensing laws – the Sale of Alcohol Bill – will help to further support and revitalise the hospitality industry and Night-Time Economy.
“I’m committed to enacting alcohol licensing laws that reflect the changing expectations and lifestyles of 21st Century Ireland,” she stated “A modernised licensing system will play an important role in revitalising existing Night-Time Economy businesses.
“To this end my Department is currently working on the drafting of the General Scheme of the Sale of Alcohol Bill. This is advancing well and it is my intention to progress this legislation in the months ahead with a view to enacting it this year.”
The extension has been welcomed by the hospitality industry which would like to see seated outdoor dining and drinking become a permanent feature of the catering landscape.
The fee that outlets have normally had to pay to put tables and chairs outside their premises has also been waived again this year.
The industry has been calling for this law to be made more permanent to bring Ireland in line with other European countries in this regard.
“Covid accelerated a growing trend towards outdoor drinking and dining” a Vintners Federation of Ireland spokesman told the Irish Times, “so this welcome news is recognition of where a sizable percentage of the hospitality trade finds itself.
“Extending the legislation brings clarity around an issue that was causing confusion among publicans last year. Given the legislation’s success in dealing with the issue we don’t see why it shouldn’t become a permanent change.”