A LANDLORD was arrested just hours after opening Ireland’s “first Covid-free pub” with a rapid testing system.
Donal Byrne, the owner of Eileen’s Bar in Aghamore, Co Mayo, reopened his wet pub last night after introducing 15-minute coronavirus tests for customers at the price of €10.
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Gastropubs across the country reopened last week as the country moved from strict lockdown to Level 3 restrictions for the Christmas period.
The rules outline that only pubs serving food are allowed to reopen under the current restrictions.
Eileen’s Bar had been closed since Covid-19 restrictions first came into effect in March as they do not serve food.
Hours after reopening, Byrne was arrested after an inspection at by Gardai found a “number of breaches” of public health guidelines, the Irish Mirror reports.
The landlord gave a number of media interviews yesterday outlining his plans to reopen and said he would not be serving food.
He told RTE’s Today with Claire Byrne: “Food has not stopped Covid and using the word food in the tagline does not stop you from getting Covid.
“It is not the solution, everyone is not going to have the vaccine taken very fast, we need to look at a long term solution.”
Byrne confirmed to Midwest Radio: “I am not serving food.”
According to Sunday World, Byrne had planned to hire medical professionals to swab customers in an outside area between 5pm and 7pm every evening.
“We are only open to regulars and we will offer them the safest way to enjoy a pint in Ireland,” he said.
“Once a patron tested negative, they were allowed to enter and must adhere to social distancing, the wearing of masks and hand-sanitising, with a maximum of 20 people allowed.”
He explained how his pub was taking coronavirus precautions “to the next level”.
“At the moment you land into a restaurant or gastropub, you come in and you eat your meal and you social distance inside,” he said.
“With ours you are tested, then you go in and you social distance.
“What we’re doing is taking this to the next level. We’re upping this a step.”
He added: “We are not just saying ‘oh this is a loophole’. We are hiring medical professionals to do the test. We are not doing these ourselves.
“We are not forcing people to come and we are not looking for new customers.
“This is by appointment only for regulars and locals. This is a very closed and controlled environment.”
‘I’M NOT NAIVE’
Byrne had said he was prepared to face the consequences of his decision.
“I’m not naive and I know that some people are going to have issues. My eyes are open and I’m prepared to answer and I’m prepared to protect myself,” he said.
“We will gladly represent ourselves. We feel that we have gone through this legally and we feel that we have good standing.”
A Gardai spokesperson told the Irish Mirror: “An Garda Síochána carried out an inspection at a licensed premises in Mayo yesterday.
“Gardai alleged a number of breaches of Public Health Regulations and guidelines to the owner of the premises and requested that the premises come into compliance.
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“Following unsuccessful engagement a male in his 30s was arrested for Breaches of the Health Act 1947 as amended.
“The male has subsequently been released from Garda custody and a file will now be prepared for Director of Public Prosecutions.”
Cops said the pub was now closed, adding: “The Covid-19 pandemic remains a public health crisis and An Garda Síochána continues to appeal to all citizens to comply with Public Health Guidelines and Regulations in order to continue to save lives.”