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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Out of control’ pub gets licence renewed

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The owner of The Lantern in Ballybane has succeeded in having the bar’s annual drinks licence renewed, paving the way for the premises to be sold.

An order made in the District Court by Judge Mary Fahy in November – refusing to renew the pub’s annual drinks licence – was quashed by Judge James McCourt at an appeals hearing in the Circuit Court a week ago.

Residents, who had applauded Judge Fahy when she refused the licence in the District Court, were quite despondent when it was renewed by the Circuit Court.

Afterwards, they said they were anxious to find out who the new owner would be and were not very hopeful that things would change at the pub.

Mary Lydon, from Gentian Hill, who owns the Lantern Bar, had applied to the Annual Licensing District Court in November for a renewal of the licence and also its transfer back to her, after former tenant, Danny Kenny, nominee and director of Kingu Kongu Ltd had it handed back to her when he vacated the premises last September.

Refusing the renewal or transfer applications in November, Judge Fahy said the lack of proper management at the premises – particularly during all of last year – which had resulted in Gardai having to deal with several public order incidents in the area, had led her to refuse the applications.

Ms Lydon sought to allay the District Court and local residents’ concerns about the running of the pub by Mr Kenny throughout 2019 by telling Judge Fahy in November that she would not be leasing the premises again and that she intended to sell it. However, the sale could not go through unless the licence was renewed, she said.

The appeal hearing was told last week that another well-known publican, who was not identified in court, was keen to purchase the premises providing the licence was attached.

Terry Lydon, who said he managed his mother’s many properties, confirmed he had a purchaser for the pub on condition the licence came with it.

Sergeant Brendan Moore, who is the dedicated licensing Sergeant for Galway City, said he was objecting to the licence renewal because of the way the premises had been run by Mr Kenny. Gardaí had been called to deal with 31 Public Order incidents – five of which were very serious – at the pub on several dates, starting with New Year’s Eve last year and right up to when the pub closed last August, he said.

He said he had taken it upon himself to visit the premises regularly at closing times last year and had taken up to a dozen Gardai with him on each occasion to ensure the premises was closed properly.

In reply to Judge McCourt, the Sergeant said the Lantern Bar was the only premises in Galway that was out of control on New Year’s Eve last year.

“I never saw the licensee (Kenny) there. I made many visits to the pub and he was never there,” the Sgt added.

He said he feared that if the licence was renewed now, then in the future, when Gardaí gave notice of objecting to the renewal of any licence, it would simply be transferred to someone else to avoid objections.

“If we object to any premises, there is an opt-out clause now and if we give notice of objections that opt-out clause is there for people to use,” Sgt Moore pointed out.

Mr Kenny gave evidence at the appeal hearing that while he was the licensee at the time, he had appointed a bar manager who had full responsibility for running the premises.

He said he called to the premises weekly and viewed an incident diary which the manager kept.

Mr Kenny said he had not been informed of any problems by his manager and he suggested that if the Gardaí – whom, he said, knew him well – had approached him directly, he would have dealt with matters swiftly.

Under cross-examination by State solicitor, Willie Kennedy, Mr Kenny said he had signed over the licence and handed back the lease to Terry Lydon last September because business was slow and his company’s debts, including rent arrears of up to €8,000, were mounting, adding that Kingu Kongu Ltd had since been liquidated.

He denied the rent debt had been written off on him surrendering the lease and licence months before the lease was due to expire.

Mr Kennedy put it to him that handing the licence and premises back early it had been a device to avoid objections and refusal of the licence renewal.

Judge McCourt compared Mr Kennedy’s application to the court to impose the ‘ultimate sanction’ by refusing the renewal of the licence, to a ‘Doomsday scenario’.

“A lot of store has been given to unruly incidents but incidents always arise.  It certainly is not the first case where a licensee, such as Mr Kenny, has been put in a situation where the landlord takes a premises back.

“But is there anything to suggest that the surrender and handing back was nothing more than arm’s length and voluntary?” Judge McCourt asked Mr Kennedy.

“The surrender was two years early,” Mr Kennedy replied.

“If you were a landlord and there was trouble you might take back your property and waive rent due to keep the licence,” Judge McCourt suggested.

Mr Kennedy said there was evidence before the court that the premises was badly run and the Gardai were objecting to the renewal of the licence because they felt the licensee was not properly running the premises.

“The court is adopting the stance that if the property is transferred at arm’s length then that is okay,” Mr Kennedy said.

Judge McCourt replied: “If no one can offer evidence of something sinister going on or evidence there was collusion between the landlord and the tenant, then the transfer was legitimate,” Judge McCourt replied.

Mr Paul McGettigan BL, instructed by solicitor, Glenn Keaney, for Ms Lydon, said Mr Kennedy was insinuating the licence had been “laundered” but in fact, discussions (between Mr Kenny and Tony Lydon) had been going on since the previous January. The business, he said, was not performing and was in debt and his client had approached Mr Kenny on several occasions.

“There is nothing untoward here,” he said.

Judge McCourt said he was satisfied the objections raised in the matter were well founded and they were accepted by everybody, including Mr Kenny and the Lydons.

“On the face of it, it was a legitimate, valid surrender,” he held.

The judge said he could not ignore the fact he had been told that Ms Lydon had a new occupier ‘lined up’

“The premises is back in secure hands and the licence is back in secure hands,” he noted.

The judge said it was appropriate in the circumstances to allow the appeal and renew the licence attached to the premises.

A spokesperson for a large group of local residents, who attended the appeal hearing, said: “We are the people living with the consequences of the pub.  This is a residential area. There are elderly people, there are disabled people and there are ordinary people of many ethnic backgrounds most of whom hate the thought of the pub being reopened.

“We can only pray that the new owners at least try and run a better establishment but we’re not very hopeful.”

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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