Last week, Helen McEntee received Government approval to seek to further extend the operation of outdoor seating areas as licensed premises plan for the busy summer months.
The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2021 was enacted in July 2021, to address issues concerning the sale and supply of alcohol in certain outdoor seating areas.
The legislation applies where those outdoor seating areas have been permitted by the relevant local authority on public land, such as a path, or where they are on private land abutting the licensed premises, such as an abutting yard, as provided for in the Act. These relevant outdoor seating areas are deemed to be part of the licensed premises while this legislation remains in force.
This will mean that premises currently lawfully operating such outdoor seating areas can continue to do so. Any premises wishing to avail of an outdoor seating area must ensure that they have the relevant permissions from the local authority or where the outdoor seating area is on private land abutting the premises, they must adhere to the provisions set out in the Act.
With regard to outdoor seating areas on private land abutting the licensed premises, it was considered appropriate to regulate the opening hours of these outdoor seating areas. This was done in the interests of communities and under the principles of fairness. This means that alcohol cannot be sold or consumed any day after 11 p.m. in the outdoor seating areas on private land abutting a licenced premises.
This legislation afforded much needed certainty to licenced premises during the pandemic, allowing publicans and restaurant owners across the country serving alcohol in relevant outdoor seating areas to operate lawfully.
While most of the Covid-19 restrictions have now lifted, I am very aware of how difficult the restrictions of the last two years have been for those in the hospitality business. Many of these businesses are still struggling and it is important that they are given support they need to thrive as the busy summer season approaches. The extension of this legislation is a key support in that regard.
I will bring the necessary Motions before the Houses of the Oireachtas at the earliest opportunity in advance of 31 May to seek an extension to this legislation for a further six months until 30 November 2022. I hope that Deputies will support the Motion.
My Justice Plan 2022 commits to publishing and enacting new laws to update and modernise licensing laws. I am delivering on that commitment by preparing Heads of a General Scheme of a Sale of Alcohol Bill. I intend to progress this legislation in the months ahead with a view to enacting it this year. Details of the proposed reform will be included in the General Scheme when published, including in relation to the sale and supply of alcohol in outdoor seating areas.