DUBLIN, Ireland: As Ireland's restaurants have begun to offer outdoor dining following the pandemic lockdown, new questions have arisen regarding the legality of serving alcohol outdoors without a specific license to do so.
However, the Minister for Justice has sought a middle ground to allow the restaurants to continue serving alcohol.
"Government will support the hospitality sector in providing outdoor dining to allow people to go out and enjoy themselves as we recover from this pandemic," Minister Heather Humphreys said.
She added that she has spoken to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris about the legal issues around outdoor drinking and he had assured her that garda will apply discretion if problems with licensing arise.
Speaking in Co Monaghan, Humphreys said Harris will be issuing guidance to his members regarding outdoor drinking.
Humphreys noted that there had been questions about outdoor drinking in one part of the country, and she urged those involved to "sit down and find a local solution".
Humphreys said she has also spoken with the Attorney General and he is looking at the situation.
Further, Humphreys said she is confident outdoor dining and drinking will continue, while noting that the garda have her full support.
"For most people, they've had a really good weekend and I'd like that to continue," she added.
The extra space needed for outdoor dining was provided to restaurants with the assistance of the Government under an outdoor seating scheme earlier this month.
However, questions about the legality of the alcohol service were raised by garda in Galway.
Garda claim that the drinking of alcohol in outdoor spaces was not permitted, unless the correct liquor license was obtained in court or where by-laws permitted the drinking of alcohol in public.
The issue is to be discussed by the Joint Policing Committee of Galway City Council.
In a statement, the Department of Justice said that restaurants "who continue to behave responsibly in controlling their premises should have nothing to worry about".