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new era Pubs told no pints at the bar as time limits for indoor dining may be increased or abolished

New regulations are being drafted after Cabinet agreed on laws for indoor dining

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Catherine Martin

Catherine Martin

Catherine Martin

Vaccinated customers will still be prohibited from ordering drinks at the bar when indoor dining resumes next week.

However, time limits for indoor dining may be increased or abolished for vaccinated customers under plans being considered by the Government.

New regulations are being drafted for pubs, restaurants and cafes after new laws for indoor dining were agreed by Cabinet.

Publican representative groups have been insisting their members should be allowed to serve customers at their bars. Rural publicans have been especially vocal that bar service should return next week.

However, a number of senior Government sources yesterday ruled out the prospect of people being permitted to sit at bars to drink.

Time limits on indoor service are central to discussions among a working group on the hospitality sector.

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Senior civil servants are considering whether strict time limits for eating and drinking indoors could be ditched or increased for people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months.

The current regulations drafted by Fáilte Ireland insist customers must leave bars and restaurants after an hour and 45 minutes if tables are one metre or less apart. There are no time limits on service if tables are two metres apart.

The hospitality working group will consider whether time limits can be increased or dropped for vaccinated customers who are sitting one metre apart.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told Newstalk that he wanted to see the time limit gone, but added: “I would prefer to do that with the support of public health advisors rather than as a political decision.”

The working group met representatives of the hospitality industry yesterday. Restaurant representatives are pushing officials to provide details of an app which could be used to scan QR codes on EU Digital Covid certificates.

There were also discussions at the meeting about the responsibility for checking vaccination certificates for people eating in restaurants and cafes in shopping centres or in food courts.

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Meanwhile, Junior Minister Ossian Smyth issued a statement last night after he earlier wrongly apologised on radio on behalf of Tourism Minister Catherine Martin.

Mr Smyth went on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne and claimed Ms Martin “misunderstood” the new rules on indoor dining.

He stated she had wrongly told Morning Ireland that doctors would be able to provide people who had recovered from Covid-19 with medical certificates.

“It’s a misunderstanding, the doctors are right, the doctors are not going to be involved in issuing recovery certs... and I apologise on her behalf,” Mr Smyth said.

Ms Martin’s comment caused concerns among GPs, who did not know they may be involved in the new system.

However, a memo agreed by the Cabinet stated: “These certs or other confirmation from a relevant medical practitioner could be used for booking and entry to premises, with accompanying photo ID for cross verification.”

A Government source said: “Ossian was not across this memo and he is not at Cabinet and he was not familiar with what he was talking about.”

Last night, Mr Smyth refused to say whether he apologised for accusing his Green Party colleague of misunderstanding legislation.

However, his spokesperson said: “Minister Smyth spoke to Minister Martin shortly after it was clarified that the Government is working on a system that would allow people to use evidence from medical personnel on a limited basis to show that they have recovered from Covid-19 in order to gain entrance to a bar or restaurant.

“This is as Minister Martin had earlier stated on Morning Ireland,” the spokesperson added.

“The two ministers are good friends and enjoy working together.”

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