Businessman Jay Bourke left the country due to a social media backlash at breaches of Covid-19 regulations during an event in the Berlin D2 bar in Dublin, a court has heard.
Gardaí initiated proceedings after footage emerged in August of non-compliance with social distance guide-lines in response to the pandemic.
A video clip was shared on social media of patrons in the popular venue on Dame Lane in Dublin city centre.
A masked staff member danced on the bar as he poured shots into dancing customers’ mouths during the controversial bar brunch event which ran from 1pm to 4pm on Aug. 15 last.
The event, which featured a DJ set, was advertised as “A Very Boozy Baked Brunch With Your Buds”, and customers were supposed to stay no more than one hour and 45 minutes in accordance with public health guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus.
The footage went viral online.
The bar’s then manager, businessman Jay Bourke, described it as “30 seconds of madness” when he commented to the media.
However, gardai formally objected to the bar renewing it’s licences and the hearing commenced before Judge Marie Quirke today at Dublin District Court.
She examined CCTV and images from the bar on the date of the event.
Garda Inspector John Finucane based at Pearse station lodged the licence objection. Referring to Mr Bourke’s “seconds of madness” description, he told the court “When I observed the CCTV, I was satisfied that was not what I saw.”
He accepted that as a result of the subsequent lockdowns, the bar was given “a small window to prove itself”.
Garda Inspector Finucane was told he was aware Mr Bourke, while still a shareholder, was no longer involved in the running of the premises. The judge asked him to reflect on whether that would change his opinion.
Judge Quirke said orderly conduct and public health were pivotal but she had to take into account people’s livelihood.
The case resumes next Wednesday.
Berlin D2 bar, operated by her client Trillium Leisure Ltd, contests the application. The venue’s barrister Dorothy Collins (instructed by solicitor Ursula Courtney), told Judge Quirke that Mr Bourke ceased involvement in running the bar since the event.
He left the country for a while due to a social media backlash, she said.
It was conceded that three public health guidelines were breached in relation to the two-metre social distancing rule, some staff not wearing masks at all times and drinks were served at the counter rather than table service.
Setting out the defence of the venue’s necessary restaurant, theatre, dance, music and singing licences, she said no law or legislation was broken.
Her client had suffered immeasurably in a trial by social media. The bar was also run in strict accordance with its licences, Ms Collins submitted.
The bar could have refused to hand over video evidence but co-operated with gardai and held two meetings with them attended by lawyers and directors, she pointed out.
Reasons for objection
Tony McGillicuddy BL, for An Garda Siochana and instructed by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, outlined a litany of reasons for the objection.
They were based on the number of patrons on the premises for the entirety of the event; alcohol was to be served with a main meal; patrons were mingling and not keeping social distance; customers were visibility intoxicated which caused more interacting; staff moved tables to allow dancing; they removed face masks; customers were served at the bar and a barman poured drink into mouths of patrons; and rules about serving food were ignored.
It was also based on the good character of the licensee, and the peaceable and orderly manner in which the place was run, Mr McGillicuddy told the court.
Under Government guidelines at the time of the event, a maximum of 50 people were allowed into an indoor event for no longer than one hour and 45 minutes.
Garda Sergeant William Quinlan, of the Pearse Street district licensing section, told the court he inspected the bar after the event finished, at 10.45 that night.
He saw a staff member place a bill on the table of a group of ladies who arrived at 7.45pm. They had been there in excess of the one hour 45 minute maximum time limit.
He agreed with Mr McGillicuddy that he was aware of the event earlier that day from social media and he had a copy of its advertisement on the Eventbrite website.
Bartender on bar
It entitled patrons to food and cocktails and encouraged to wear “craziest cookiest clobber so get your glad rags out”.
Video evidence was played in court. It showed people standing at the bar congregating; staff not wearing masks; people dancing and a “good number of tables unoccupied”, he said.
Different groups and staff members were also socialising with each other, he told the court.
The footage showed the bartender at one point standing on the counter pouring drinks into customers’ mouths as they stood at the bar or danced around.
“Ladies were waiting for cocktails which take a number of minutes and a staff member was giving them little drinks, or shots, to occupy them,” Garda Sergeant Quinlan said.
Court challenge to Berlin Bar licence
He agreed that a DJ set “fuelled a breakdown of social distancing”.
In cross-examination, the sergeant agreed with Ms Collins that no warning was given to the premises ahead of the application to contest their operating licences, and her client had not been convicted of any offence.
He also accepted the bar had fully co-operated with gardai and numbers had not exceeded 50 people.
Customs officers Deirdre Furlong and Audrey Murphy told the court that they were asked to check compliance at the venue on Sept. 10 last. They booked a table for a meal and some drink and after 90 minutes they were asked if they wanted to stay longer and told they could use another bill.