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CITY TRIBUNE

Judge issues warning to pubs and nightclubs over smoking areas

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Nightclubs, bars and other licensed premises must comply with strict smoking area regulations or they will not be granted special exemptions in future.

Judge Mary Fahy issued the warning to all licensed premises in her area while dealing with breaches of smoking regulations by Shane O’Connor of DNA nightclub, Ball Alley Lane, Eyre Square, and John Carmody, of An Púcán, Forster Street, both of whom pleaded guilty at Galway District Court to failing to prohibit smoking in specified areas of their respective premises, contrary to Section 47 of the Public Health Tobacco Act 2002.

Mr O’Connor was prosecuted for being in charge of DNA night-club on August 3 last when it failed to prohibit smoking in a specified area.

Skeffington Arms Ltd, trading as DNA nightclub, was also prosecuted for the same offence.

Mr Carmody, of Connacht Taverns Ltd., Connacht Hotel, Dublin Road, Galway, was prosecuted for being in charge of An Púcán, Forster Street, on August 2 last, when he failed to prohibit smoking in two specified areas, namely a covered area at the side of the premises and a large covered courtyard at the rear.

Connacht Taverns Ltd, the company which owns An Púcán, was also prosecuted for the same two offences.

The court heard both premises failed inspections which were carried out by the HSE of their designated smoking areas in early August.

Regulations stipulate designated smoking areas in licensed premises must be situated in a roofless area open to the elements.

HSE inspectors found the designated smoking area in DNA nightclub was a room with a roof, while two outside designated smoking areas at An Púcán had overhead canopies.

Judge Mary Fahy said she was concerned that both premises had initially ignored the HSE’s findings and it had been forced to issue proceedings and prosecute both companies and management at both premises to get them to comply.

A solicitor for the HSE told the court that management at DNA nightclub had now assured him the smoking area would be opened up and plans were afoot to have the roof taken off.

Judge Fahy said that would then make the premises the same as every other premises in the country.

“What I’m concerned about is that warnings were given by the HSE and totally ignored,” she said.

The court heard Mr O’Connor had given an undertaking, when the matter first came before the licence applications court in early December, that the smoking area in the night-club had been cordoned off from the public and it would remain so over Christmas.

Judge Fahy had adjourned the matter to allow time for the company to comply with the HSE’s requirements and she noted the undertaking given.  She adjourned the matter to February 6 for sentence on condition the undertaking continued.

She warned that any breach of the undertaking between now and Christmas would be a contempt of court which would be dealt with by way of custodial sentence.

In the case of An Púcán, Mr Carmody and the company, Connacht Taverns Ltd, entered a plea last week to the breaches of smoking regulations on August 2 last.

The HSE’s solicitor told the court it would be prudent to get an undertaking from Connacht Taverns Ltd. and he wanted Mr Carmody to give an undertaking to the court that the smoking areas in An Púcán would comply with the regulations pending sentence on February 6.

He confirmed the premises was compliant with the regulations on re-inspection of its smoking areas recently.

Mr Carmody went into the witness box and gave an undertaking that the premises would comply with smoking regulations.

“In this case, a number of warnings were given by the HSE and those warnings were ignored and then this prosecution followed,” Judge Fahy noted from the court file.

The HSE solicitor said the owners engaged with planners in 2015 and agreed the areas would be compliant but when an inspection took place in 2016 and again last August, the areas were not compliant.

He explained that overhead canopies acted like a roof and, when in use, they made the areas non-compliant, but when they were retracted the areas were compliant because they were in the open air.  He said the August inspection took place in the evening and it had been raining.

Judge Fahy asked the solicitor if he wanted the canopies removed and he said there was no need, and as long as they remained retracted the premises was compliant.

Judge Fahy said she didn’t like the sound of that.

“They can open them out when no one is looking.  I’m very concerned for fair-mindedness and that every premises is treated fairly.  And if some premises are being ‘cute’ and have canopies available to them, then they cannot be technically compliant unless these smoking areas are completely open to the elements.

“That is the law. I didn’t write it. I do not think a premises should be allowed the option of having a temporary roof when it suits.

“If you lived in Galway, you would know it rains five nights out of seven,” the judge said to the Dublin-based solicitor.

A solicitor representing Connacht Taverns said Mr Carmody was giving an undertaking that there would be a one-meter gap between the canopies.

Judge Fahy did not appear impressed.  She said it was up to the prosecution to ensure the premises was compliant and the Gardai had a role in policing smoking areas.

“Any premises that comes before this court looking for special exemptions will not get them until they are fully compliant with smoking regulations,” Judge Fahy warned.

Mr Carmody told Judge Fahy he was responsible for An Púcán and would be happy to give undertakings to the court and the HSE to be compliant with smoking regulations.

Judge Fahy adjourned sentence for both premises to February 6.

The HSE solicitor advised the judge she could disqualify a premises from selling cigarettes for three months when it came to sentence for breaches of smoking regulations.

“I expect you to open the law to me on that on February 6.    Thankfully, these type of prosecutions are few and far between,” the judge replied.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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