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Tanaiste 'can't put a date' on when 'wet pubs' will reopen as €16m support package announced


Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said he "can't put a date" on when 'wet' pubs will be allowed reopen as a new Government support package worth €16m for pubs, bars and restaurants has been announced.

The new funding includes a restart grant and a 40 pc top up for businesses remaining closed.

Businesses can now receive a minimum of €5,600 and a maximum of €35,000 under the grant for additional expenses and preparations for reopening when they are allowed to do so.

A waiver of court fees and associated excise and stamp duties relating to the renewal of pub and other liquor licences this year, and excise duty on on-trade liquor licences on renewal in 2020 has also been introduced.

Speaking at a briefing this evening, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said he "can't put a date" on when 'wet' pubs will be allowed reopen.

He said the National Public Health and Emergency team (Nphet) is working with government on protocols "that might allow for the reopening of pubs into the future, if the virus starts going the right direction again."

"But I can't put a date on that at the moment," he added.

"Ireland is the only country in Europe where wet pubs are fully closed. In most countries. They are open with some restriction and we're examining exactly where that can be done and we're building on, I think, a very good compliance from the restaurants sector where we've only seen one significant cluster out of very many.

"So that's the point we'd like to get to in the next couple of weeks, but I can't guarantee that's possible. This is just some additional aid to help out in the interim."

When asked if he thinks pubs will reopen again before the end of this year, the Tanaiste said he "can't say that with certainty."

The Cabinet today agreed legislation granting additional enforcement powers for Gardai in a bid to clamp down on pubs that are not adhering to public health regulations, the Tanaiste confirmed.

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Under the legislation, gardai will be able to close a premises found to be in breach of regulations for a day.

If regulations are breached a second time, a garda superintendent can seek a seven-day closure order.

Where regulations are breached a third time, the legislation will allow for a possibility of closure up to 30 days.

License holders will have the option to appeal the order.

Mr Varadkar said the move to give gardai additional powers comes after "quite concerning" instances of social distancing and other regulations being broken in some bars occurred in recent weeks as gardai say they have found 165 pubs that are suspected to have breached public health guidelines.

Files will be prepared for the DPP in each of these cases.

The Tanaiste said: "I think the vast majority of people running businesses are doing everything they can and are doing a fabulous job, I think, to work within the regulations. But we have seen a few instances where social distancing has really broken down, and that does undermine everyone's efforts against Covid.

"This will now give the gardai the power in an extreme situation to close a business, or in less extreme situations to go to the district court and ask that the business be closed for a period of time."

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the legislation, which will be published on Monday, will help deal with cases where premises are continuing to break regulations.

"It has been over the last few weeks really, more so since the beginning of July and coming into August, that we've seen an increase in cases of non-compliance.

"But in particular, an increase in a small number of premises that are continuing to be non compliant. That's why we've brought this in now. And again, we've only brought this in, because we feel that the cases are starting to increase," she said.

"It will give gardai an ability to stop things in their tracks before they get out of hand."

Fianna Fail TD Michael McGrath said the new measures are to give pubs "every fighting chance of surviving this period" until they are allowed to reopen.

The Minister said she expects the regulations to be enforced "in probably a minimum of circumstances" and that the more severe penalties "possibly mightn't be applied at all."

Meanwhile, the Department of Health has today reported 127 additional confirmed Covid-19 cases in Ireland, and no further deaths.

There is now a total of 28,578 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, and 1,777 coronavirus related deaths.

Of the cases notified today, 52 are in Dublin, 13 in Monaghan, 9 in Tipperary, 8 in Meath, 8 in Wexford, 8 in Roscommon and the remaining 29 are located in Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Offaly, Waterford, Westmeath and Wicklow.

Sixty-six are confirmed to be associated with outbreaks or are close contacts of a confirmed case and 8 cases have been identified as community transmission.

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