Castlebar Golf Club may be forced to close its clubhouse bar after objections were raised to the renewal of its club licence at last week’s sitting of Castlebar District Court.
The prestigious Golf Club has held a club licence for over 100 years, but objections to the renewal of the licence were raised by legal representatives for the Chief State Solicitor and a member of the public.
The issue surrounds the running of the bar and restaurant by Joseph McDonnell and the arrangement he entered into with the Golf Club, which the objectors claim is a breach of the club licensing laws.
Under the current arrangement, Mr McDonnell pays the club a €10,000 annual fee, pays a portion of the heat and electricity and buys stock for the bar. He is entitled to take whatever profit is made thereafter.
This arrangement, according to Mr Francis Comerford, BL for the Chief State Solicitor, is a breach of the licensing laws because the sale of alcohol in the club must be carried out by the club itself, and no person must have interest in profiting from the sale of alcohol.
Mr Comerford explained that the core objection is that the club needs an alternate license if Mr McDonnell is operating the bar as a private enterprise.
The issue was first raised with the Golf Club last April, when Sgt Mark Crehan visited the club after a complaint by a member of the public.
Taking the stand, club secretary Padraig Corrigan was asked by Brendan Donnelly, who was representing one of the objectors, why Mr McDonnell and not the committee had taken out public liability and prepared the safety statement.
“The committee prepared it,” said Mr Corrigan, to which Mr Donnelly replied, “I put it to you that you have no idea who’s running the bar.”
Corrigan admitted that Mr O’Donnell accepts profit, is the manager of the club, pays for stock and is responsible for hiring staff, to which Judge Mary Devins commented, “Good, we’re at that stage.”
Captain of the club, Mr Henry Horkan told the court that the elected committee was responsible for the overall management of the club, and that Mr McDonnell didn’t have exclusive management of the area.
When probed about committee meetings in relation to the licensing issue, Mr Horkan admitted that the committee never looked to amending the drawn-up agreement between the club and Mr McDonnell in relation to the lease of the bar.
Mr Rory O’Connor, representing the golf club, told the court that ‘in no way had Mr McDonnell any major access and had no exclusive rights to run the club, but ran concessions under the management of the committee’. He added that he was not an employee of the club, which meant that the licensing laws were not breached.
Mr Comerford who was representing the State, said: “Mr McDonnell owns the alcohol, and as long as that’s the case, he can’t have the license.” Mr Comerford said that the club could take steps to rectify the situation, but added that a licence would still be required.
Judge Devins adjourned the ruling until October 17.