I have a healthy respect for our national police force, the Garda Siochana. By and large, like most law-keeping organisations, they are a hard-working, underpaid and much derided bunch of men and women. They do a tough job in the easiest of times, a practically impossible job when gun control is non-existent in the Republic of Ireland. But that’s not why I write this post today.
Our gardai are tasked with enforcing any number of unworkable laws. The one that sticks in my craw deals with “drinking-up time” in our licensed premises. As it stands at the moment, customers are allowed 30 minutes to finish off their drinks once the bar has closed. On a Saturday night the bar closes at 12.30am, which means that customers must be gone by 1am. All well and good – but this is Ireland we’re talking about here. Customers don’t normally finish ordering their drinks until that time. (Yes, we’re flexible, and we’re not about to turn away business by sticking too close to the law now, are we?) So asking them to leave is a no-no.
Except of course when the gardai come in to say hello.
Which they did last night – ten minutes after my boss went off home, leaving me to lock up. Personally I’ve no issue with this. He’s there until all hours most of the week, so I think it’s only fair that he goes off, knowing I have keys to lock up. I normally pull down the shutters to protect whatever people there are inside and to prevent anyone else coming in. But whoever went out without me knowing forgot (or didn’t bother) to pull it down after them. Within moments the boys in blue were inside, causing our locals all sort of mayhem and disharmony. And because I was the one with the keys, it appeared I was the man in charge of the pub. Yay me! Did I know it was an hour over the time? Of course I did. What was I doing about it? Not much, if truth be told. I can’t force their drinks down them.
I went off to make sure that no one was smoking where they shouldn’t be smoking (i.e. anywhere inside the building) and when I came back, I was asked for my details: name, address and date of birth. Quickly retreating into my past and hoping that the gardai hadn’t these details already, I coughed up, letting them know that I was not the manager – just unlucky enough to be a key-holder.
The pub was cleared in ten minutes, and while I enjoy an early night like most bar workers, I felt it was unfair on my customers to be put through this, especially those who couldn’t (or weren’t able to) finish their drinks. We had a 40th birthday party in the pub last night, so it wasn’t exactly clearing out when the police arrived. However, just before they left, one of the cops came over to me and said that they were under orders by the local superintendent to clear out all the pubs in the area, and that there wouldn’t be any prosecution. Not this time, he added. He wished me a good evening, and because of my healthy respect for our hard-working boys in blue I said, “You too, Garda.”
I hope they did – because it’s a jungle out there.