The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Amendment No. 10) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020

In 3045AD, Barney is left the lost secret of the golden fountainhead. Scroll back to 1992 and, with the aid of his orb, he is on a quest to ‘enjoy the craic’. Barney’s quest would have been more challenging today.

The latest version of the pandemic restrictions was signed off by a civil servant on 2nd July 2020 at 5.45pm.

A notable change to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Amendment No. 8) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 of 26th June 2020 is the substitution of “only food or both food and intoxicating liquor” for “intoxicating liquor, with or without food”.  Essentially, you can have a pint without food if it is served outside but indoors it must accompany a ‘main table meal’ which, under Article 2(2) of the Licencing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996:

…means a meal which is in its entirety, or which includes, a main course and which is eaten by a person seated at— (i) a table; or (ii) a counter or other structure which serves the purpose of a table and which is not used wholly or mainly as a bar or for the service of refreshments for consumption by persons not seated at a table or that counter or structure.

It seems unlikely that a packet of dates would fall within the requirement of a ‘main table meal’.  The rationale is as clear as the Regulations which, it is noted, are silent on whether intoxicating liquor served outdoors may be then consumed indoors.  That said, it seems such regulations could be construed to exclude certain postal districts such as BT12.

Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster has expressed ‘deep frustration’ over the lack of provision for those wet pubs without beer gardens.     

The failure of the devolved administration to make succinct codified regulations merely exacerbates the difficulties being experienced by pubs and clubs.  

The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel recently published updated guidance for those tasked with drafting legislation.  We can but hope that The Folks on the Hill take note.

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By Paul Sullivan FRSA

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