Publicans sweating on Good Friday decision
PUBLICANS hoping to open their doors to thirsty rugby fans on Good Friday will find out tomorrow whether their landmark application has been successful.
Presiding judge Tom O'Donnell said people were waiting with bated breath for the case as Limerick vintners appeared in a packed District Court yesterday.
The application for an area exemption for the pubs was opposed by gardai through Limerick state solicitor Michael Murray.
The publicans, represented by solicitor Gearoid McGann, contended that the Munster-Leinster Magners League game at Thomond Park stadium on April 2 was a "special event" as part of their application for an area exemption.
However, Mr Murray argued that the fixture was not a special event.
Yesterday's hearing was longer than the upcoming rugby match and lasted over 90 minutes.
Mr McGann said he had the approval of the majority of licensed publicans in the Limerick city borough area to move the application.
The publicans' solicitor said there was no legal definition of what a "special event" is.
He submitted that the Munster-Leinster game happens once a year in Thomond Park and asserted that it was "clear-cut" that it was a special event.
Objecting to the application, Michael Murray said "the difficulty is that it is not a special event, but that it is held on a special day -- Good Friday".
Chairman of the Limerick Vintners' Association Jerry O'Dea said the forthcoming game was the biggest domestic rugby clash of the year.
"There is a long history of rivalry between the two teams and essentially you have two halves of the Irish team competing against each other," he said.
Mr O'Dea noted that the fixture was a sell-out and that of the 26,000 attending, Leinster would be providing almost 7,000 supporters.
The publican said the city's pubs could provide food, hospitality, a safe place to watch the match and toilet facilities for all attending the game also.
Manager of the Strand Hotel in Limerick and chairman of Limerick Co-ordination Office, Sean Lally, said from his personal perspective the game was bigger than any Heineken Cup match held in Limerick.
Mr Lally said there were 2,000 rooms available in Limerick on any given night and said the Munster brand and Thomond Park are extremely important to Limerick city.
The hotelier added that it would be a "logistical nightmare" to have hotel residents having a drink with a meal while those sitting alongside them -- who were not staying in the hotel -- could not have a drink with their meal.
He said next week's event is Limerick's equivalent to Galway Plate or Galway Hurdle day at the annual racing festival. Mr Lally said he could not envisage going to Galway on such a day and not enjoy the hospital of the pubs.
Consulting director with BDO Simpson Xavier, Mark O'Connell, said a report commissioned at last April's Heineken Cup final showed that Limerick city benefited with €10.5m in revenue from the event.
"The Leinster game is much different ... it has the highest level of travelling support. This match will bring more visiting supporters to the city," Mr O'Connell said.
After hearing the application, Judge O'Donnell said he had a considerable amount of case law to consider and would give his decision tomorrow.