5,000 fines, jail, threat of immediate closure and surprise inspections in new nightclub and live venue rules published tonight
11 hrs ago
Compliance officers will be able to make unannounced inspections of nightclub premises under regulations which come into force at midnight with tough new fines or jail of up to a year for those venue operators and patrons who break the law.
New guidelines published this evening include the requirement for tickets for nightclubs and live venues from tomorrow, Friday.
And it will be a punishable offence to be on a premises with a fake vaccination cert.
The any-time visits will be mandated to allow for the monitoring of a club’s compliance with the law, under all the requirements set out to owners — including mask-wearing and spaced queuing at bars.
It shall be an offence to deny entry to the compliance officer or to impede their work. A fine of €2,500 may be immediately issued.
Non-compliance with the regulations shall result in a first fine of €2,500. A second offence will involve a penalty of €5,000 and could also involve imprisonment for up to a year, together with an order of closure for the premises.
In cases of serious initial breaches, a club or dancehall can be served with an immediate closure notice lasting for up to 72 hours before a District Court hearing.
A complete closure notice can also be issued in severe, repeated reaches. This would involve the Gardaí and a court hearing on the licence, which could result in it being withdrawn for good — as has already happened with pub premises.
The regulations, signed tonight by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, apply from the stroke of midnight.
It is believed in Government that the no-warning visits by pairs of inspectors will have a serious effect in ensuring strict compliance with the new regime.
It is also an offence to be on a premises with a fake vaccination cert. Anyone who knowingly facilitates someone in obtaining or enjoying entry under false premises may also be fined.
The structure of offences and penalties is largely the same a that applicable to pubs under the Health At 1947, amended this year for the purposes of addressing the Covid pandemic.
Nor can owners be hands-off in relation to the operation of their premises. Proprietors are similarly liable as their staff to fines of €2,500 rising to €5,000, and they can also be sent to jail for a year in egregious cases, where a judge deems appropriate.
All fines will apply at District Court level, where there is an automatic right of appeal to the Circuit Court.
The updated guidelines published this evening state that electronic tickets should replace paper tickets and that teenagers attending underage discos will also need to show their Covid passes and photo ID.
From Friday, bar service will be put in place under “strict adherence” to customers being allowed to come up to the counter to order, pay and collect drinks or food, with a one-metre distance between others in the queue and the bar.
Employees must supervise this queue.
“Congregation at counters or bars is not permitted and queues must be managed, orderly and socially distant,” the guidelines state.
All workers will have to wear face masks and customers will also have to wear masks apart from when they are dancing, eating or drinking.
For live performances, 100pc capacity will be allowed as long as no more than 1,500 patrons are standing and the rest are seated.
There is no capacity limit for nightclubs.
Organisers are also expected to communicate with the customer the expected entry times, if they’re going to be searched, and at what time, and “to arrive early if necessary”.
They should also explain to patrons the rules of entry, the need for Covid certs, mask wearing policies, prohibited items, and the need for contact details for contact tracing.
Contact tracing information can be kept for 28 days and “discarded” afterwards.
Signs should be put in place, as well as “public address announcements”. Stewards may also remind people “not to join the queue if they are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 and to return home and also outlining that only those with a valid ticket for entry should be queuing”.
The guidelines also state that there should be queuing systems in place for toilets, with a one-way system in place and disposable towels used instead of air dryers.
The guidelines state that staff working in public-facing roles should wear face coverings which are FFP2 or higher specification.
They also include a checklist for operators, which includes questions such as: “Are all staff aware of the rules regarding checking of Digital Covid Certs and ID?” and “Do I have enhanced cleaning protocols, particularly for high touch areas?”