An objection to the renewal of the drinks licence for the refurbished Spanish Arch Hotel – now known as the Residence Hotel – was dismissed at a special sitting of Galway District Court last week.
The challenge was brought on behalf of PJ and Mary McDonagh, who own the adjoining McDonagh’s restaurant at 22 Quay Street.
They objected over issues with the fire escape and that planning permission had not been adhered to.
However, senior counsel for the new licence holders, Constance Cassidy, said that the court was not entitled to entertain such an application unless 12-months’ notice was given.
“The two statutory grounds for objection which they are entitled to rely on, relate to the good character of the licensee, and peaceful and orderly conduct in the last year,” she said.
“There is an exception, if the premises is unfit for licence, but a full year’s notice must be given.
“We absolutely dispute the right of way, we own it entirely, these are not grounds that the court can consider (the matter).”
She said that the McDonagh’s used to own the premises in question; it was subsequently sold by public auction in December 2016, and Ms Cassidy’s client acquired it from a third party, by way of a lease, in January. An ad-intrim transfer was granted to the new licensees by Judge Mary Fahy in February.
“The previous licence holder was a receiver, Aidan Murphy, and at no time when he traded was there any objection to his character or the running of the business,” she advised Judge Alan Mitchell.
“You have to be confined to those two issues.”
She described the challenge as “an abuse of process” and that the objectors had other remedies to fall back on, such as the Circuit Court and the planning authority.
“But he leaves himself open to costs,” she added. “My application is to dismiss the objection.”
Barrister for the McDonagh’s, Alban Carney, said that the main issue was the unfitness of the premises.
“These are adjoining properties, in 1995 we granted a right of way for access to the fire escape in the event of a fire in the hotel,” he said.
“For some reason, the receiver decided to construct a new steel staircase which encroaches on our property. This annoyed my client. It was not discussed with my client, and it raises a fire issue.
“There was a badly-drafted agreement in 1995. To regularise this, we should go to the Circuit Court, but my client is anxious to bring this matter to a head, so instructed us to object.
“I can’t level any allegation against their character, except that people can step out onto my staircase for smoking – hopefully not to avoid Gardaí, if they raid the place.”
He said that the staircase leads to a private courtyard at the rear of his client’s premises, and he expressed concern that they would face prosecution for being ‘found on’ their property, in the event of a raid.
On a point of information, Judge Mitchell asked Ms Cassidy if the Gardaí would be required to give the 12-month notice time if they also had an objection.
“Yes, but they can prosecute me for not operating in accordance with the licensing laws,” she replied, adding that a Fire Officer could also close them down.
The Judge proceeded to dismiss the objection, as he said that the objection had recourse under different avenues, but that the District Court was not one of them.
However, noting that the Fire Officer had stated that there were two outstanding matters that needed attention before the refurbished hotel could be granted an annual drinks licence, the Judge adjourned that matter to May 2 to ensure that these are completed.