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covid crisis Publicans vow to keep selling takeaway pints, 'It's not against the law and we need to survive'

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Ciaran Meagher of the Salmon Leap in Leixlip, Co Kildare. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Ciaran Meagher of the Salmon Leap in Leixlip, Co Kildare. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Ciaran Meagher of the Salmon Leap in Leixlip, Co Kildare. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Publicans are increasingly serving ‘takeaway pints’ and cocktails, with customers aged in their 60s even popping along for a tipple.

Despite the Taoiseach’s request in January to “forget about takeaway pints” during Level 5 lockdown, it seems this request has now been long forgotten by many.

Many pubs across Ireland are welcoming customers for takeaway drinks. According to some publicans, their very survival depends on the takeaway trade, which is not illegal.

Ciaran Meagher, of the Salmon Leap in Leixlip, Co Kildare, said as there was no legislation to prevent it, he felt perfectly within his rights to operate a takeaway service.

“There was a mindset that the people who wanted takeaway drinks were the 18 to 25-year-old demographic, that they wanted to mix in a crowd, but that isn’t the case,” Mr Meagher said.

“Sixty-year-old women are customers. Two 50-year-old friends order wings and Guinness. They hadn’t seen each other for four months.

“It’s the elongated process of the third lockdown. People are tired, they’ve had enough.

“Martin hasn’t mentioned takeaway pints since the throw-away manner at the start of the third lockdown in January.

“We were very compliant. We stopped for two weeks after the announcement but it was clear there was no law brought in.

“As long as customers are not staying on the site, it’s the same as off-licence sales.”

Mr Meagher said that although there “hasn’t been an issue”, there remained “a proportion of the population” who consider takeaway pints “a taboo”.

“Martin didn’t want the gatherings but they don’t seem to be happening this time,” he said.

“The amount of lads who have home bars now is ridiculous. We could get five or six phone calls looking for kegs to drink at home.

“Isn’t it preferable to have a takeaway or delivery?”

The 79 Inn in Ballyfermot, west Dublin, is also open for takeaway pints, cocktails and food. Landlord Eamonn O’Shea says his bar is able to provide full safety measures and a good service to takeaway customers.

Mr O’Shea, who hails from a pub family, said the long closures had been “devastating” on his family.

“My mam, my dad and myself work in the trade,” he said.

“The worst part is the opening and closing. If we had a deadline that we could work towards, it would be a lot better.

“We want to keep going – we want and need to be open. The payments from the Government are grand but we can’t keep going on it – they barely keep us going.

“We want to keep our staff and we want to be able to offer them a future.

“My family own three pubs and two of them are still closed but this pub is where I work and I decided we were going to open.

“We’re not too mad about selling drinks without food, so it’s mainly food. But we do sell takeaway pints in a container with a lid on but customers have to drink away from the pub. And they can’t drink on the street – it’s meant to be taken home and drunk in the home. I agree with all that.

“We would follow any safety protocols to just open.

“The Government doesn’t seem to know whether it is coming or going.

“We need help to survive. We have full-time staff with families and mortgages. The trades like ours are not just full of young people.

“And the €350 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is a lot of money from the Government – but if you have a mortgage and family to support, it’s not enough.

“It’s hard opening up and closing, staff coming off and going on PUP and then we can’t even guarantee them stability in their job.

“If we had a member of staff looking to get a mortgage, what would we do?

“They’d be looking for a job elsewhere. There’s no stability. That will improve with the vaccine but we can’t keep waiting.”

A Garda spokesman said: “The sale of takeaway alcohol from licensed premises is not currently a penal regulation and therefore not an offence.”

Under current Covid-19 restrictions, cafés, bars, restaurants, and pubs may only sell food or drink, including intoxicating liquor, for takeaway.

Liquor licensing laws say consumption of takeaway alcohol must take place 100 metres from where the drink was purchased.

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