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Publican chose to ‘flagrantly breach’ Covid regulations – judge

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Objection to licensee for Achill pub withdrawn, but sentencing on breaches adjourned

An Achill publican must pay €5,000 to charity and volunteer locally every week until January if he wishes to avoid a conviction for breaching Covid-19 regulations by serving food and alcohol.
Joseph Fadian of Ted’s Bar, Cashel, Achill, appeared before Achill District Court on Thursday last. He was charged with breaches of the Covid regulations under temporary restrictions, under the 1947 Health Act. An objection to the renewal of his licence was also before the court.
That objection was first aired in September 2020. However, it was adjourned on several occasions since then, due to considerable legal argument over whether the required notice for such an objection was given to Mr Fadian. However, after Fadian pleaded guilty to two charges of breaches of the Covid-19 regulations, Diarmuid Connolly, counsel for the State, told Judge Fiona Lydon that the State was withdrawing its objection to the renewal of his license.
Garda Inspector Denis Harrington said the Gardaí are satisfied that Mr Fadian is now running the business ‘in a fit manner’, adding ‘it is never our intention to deny someone the opportunity to earn a living’.
40 inside bar
Inspector Harrington gave evidence relating to the two charges before the court.
He said that on June 29, 2020, Sergeant Brian Murphy called to Ted’s Bar and observed ten to 15 people standing at the bar area with pints of lager in their hands. They were not consuming food. Six more people were seated at the bar consuming pints.
Inspector Harrington said there were over 40 people on the premises and it was ‘quite clear by their demeanour’ that they had been there some time. He added that Sergeant Murphy said that he did not observe ‘any compliance’ with Covid regulations.
He added that the nature of the Covid restrictions in force at the time said people could not stand at the bar and circulate. They had to be seated at tables of no more than six, consuming food, and they could be in a pub serving food for no longer than 105 minutes.

Repeat offence
Inspector Harrington went on to give evidence about the second charge, for an offence on September 12. He told the court that Garda Martin O’Reilly inspected the premises as part of regular inspections of all premises in Achill.
The court was told that several tables had ten to 12 people sitting at them, while eight to ten people were sitting at the bar. There was no visible system in place for entry and exit and routes to the toilet, Inspector Harrington added. He said gardaí had spoken to Fadian about the regulations ‘on a number of occasions’ before this date.  
He said the seriousness of the incident on September 12 was compounded by the fact that it took place two days after the objection to Mr Fadian’s licence was first raised in court. During that court sitting, gardaí had given an undertaking that if Fadian complied with the regulations between the September and November court, they would look on the matter favourably.
He added that an Garda Síochána had received complaints from the public, which was why its members continued to inspect the premises.
Inspector Harrington pointed out that the regulations that had been in place on June 29 were still in place on September 12.
Defence
Defending counsel James Charity asked if receipts for food had been produced. Inspector Harrington said Ted’s serves food and receipts were produced for food served earlier, but that he could not confirm whether the customers had been served the food earlier.
Mr Charity said his client has been compliant since September. He added that when Mr Fadian erected a marquee for outdoor drinking in accordance with the easing of restrictions earlier this year, he contacted gardaí to make sure it was compliant.
Inspector Harrington said that he is satisfied the business is now compliant.
Mr Charity said that his client purchased the property in March 2019 and had had a successful career in construction up to that point. He invested ‘substantially’ in the purchase and renovation of the premises and is a substantial employer locally.
He said that Covid hit within one year of Fadian buying the property. He added that the first offence, on June 29, took place on the very first day pubs serving food were allowed reopen, and that a lot of publicans were finding their feet at the time.
He asserted that his client accepts there ‘were difficulties’, but added he had been promoting the business as a food-based one. Mr Charity handed into court print outs of social media posts highlighting food service, table bookings etc.
He said his client had been compliant since the date of the second offence, and he asked Judge Lydon to consider giving Mr Fadian the benefit of the Probation Act rather than a conviction.

‘Not good enough’
Judge Fiona Lydon said these offences took place during the high point of the pandemic at a ‘very uncertain time for us all’.
She pointed out that there had not just been one offence, and that the offence in September took place after the objection had come before the court, and Mr Fadian knew he would be inspected. She stated that he ‘chose to flagrantly breach the regulations, and that’s not good enough’.
Judge Lydon asked Mr Fadian would he consider doing voluntary work in St Colman’s Day Care Centre in Keel. He said he sponsors them and helps out in a voluntary capacity with their annual garden-fete fundraiser.
Judge Lydon said she would adjourn the case to January 13, 2022. She said if she was furnished with a letter then from St Colman’s saying that Mr Fadian had volunteered there on a weekly basis from now until January, and if proof were given that he contributed €2,500 to St Colman’s as well as €2,500 to the Achill RNLI, she would consider applying the Probation Act.