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Disbelief as pubs and restaurants told to keep record of what customers ordered

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A Monaghan publicans’ protest sign in Dublin yesterday

A Monaghan publicans’ protest sign in Dublin yesterday

A Monaghan publicans’ protest sign in Dublin yesterday

New rules requiring restaurants and pubs that serve food to keep a record of their customers and what they ordered have sparked a backlash.

Publicans have asked the Data Protection Commissioner to urgently review requirements on them to keep such records for 28 days.

The measure risks turning Ireland into a police state, said Fianna Fáil's Marc MacSharry, who contacted Taoiseach Micheál Martin to demand it be reversed.

He was soon joined in his criticisms by other Fianna Fáil TDs including junior minister Anne Rabbitte, who told the Herald last night that she is "gobsmacked" by the regulations and argued they are "a step too far".

Pressure

The Government is under mounting pressure to allow so-called wet pubs - those that do not serve food - to reopen after nearly six months of pandemic restrictions.

It comes as a bill giving gardaí the power to seek the temporary closure of pubs breaching Covid regulations was overwhelmingly supported by TDs when it was put to a second stage vote in the Dáil with only 10, including rural Independents, opposing it.

Serious concerns have now been raised about accompanying regulations requiring the retention of the information.

The Taoiseach last night off- ered no commitment on when wet pubs will be allowed to reopen, but suggested guidance on the reopening of all pubs will be forthcoming soon.

Elsewhere, HSE clinical dir- ector Dr Colm Henry warned that now is not the right time for them to reopen. He said the combination of alcohol, congregated settings and being indoors in a pub represented a Covid risk.

However, the new regulations for those that have reopened as they serve food prompted unrest among publicans and Fianna Fáil TDs.

Fáilte Ireland's latest update to its Covid-19 guidelines for the hospitality industry comes on foot of new regulations signed by Fianna Fáil Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

Restaurants, cafes and pubs that serve food must now ensure that no more than six people from a maximum of three households are at one table. They also require the logging of every patron's individual meal and the retention of that record for 28 days.

The Licensed Vintners' Asso- ciation (LVA) and the Restaur- ants Association of Ireland have written to the Data Protection Commission asking for an urgent review.

"No thought has been put into the burden this is going to create. How is it going to help protect public health knowing what topping was on a customer's pizza or what way their potatoes were cooked?" said an LVA spokesperson.

The Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI) said the introduction of the requirement to record all individual food orders and keep that data for 28 days will further burden struggling businesses.

Crazy

"This is crazy stuff. The idea that a pub must record all food ordered by each customer and then store it for 28 days is bureaucracy gone mad," said VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben.

"Not only is it too impractical to implement, but why does the Government think this law will help in the fight against Covid? It's madness."

In raising concerns about the issue with his senior party colleagues, Mr MacSharry last night urged the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil ministers to reverse restrictions he described as "authoritarian and unnecessary".

Joining the chorus of criticism was TD Ms Rabbitte, who said: "We said of nosey people long ago that they'd want to know what you had for breakfast.

"There's a moment when you go a step too far. That's what we're doing here. We're also filing work on top of work on top of work for businesses. It's ridiculous."

Last night, Health Minister Mr Donnelly's spokesperson said: "The regulation will simply require restaurants to keep receipts. This is normal business practice for the majority of restaurants.

"The purpose of this regulation is to protect the vast majority of proprietors who are complying with the requirement of providing a substantial meal and to allow for enforcement powers to be used on those who do not comply."