Gardai will receive tough new powers to shut pubs which break Ireland’s coronavirus rules, the Government said.
Fines of up to 2,500 euros or a maximum of six months in prison will be the sanction if bars infringing social distancing regulations refuse to close for a day.
Closure orders could be issued by a district court resulting in a pub being shut for up to 30 days.
Justice minister Helen McEntee said: “We see that the cases are starting to increase.
“This will give gardai an ability to stop things in their tracks before they get out of hand.”
She said a graduated approach would be adopted.
“I think the more severe penalties possible may not be applied,” she added.
There are no immediate plans to reopen drink-only hostelries and substantial meals will still have to be served.
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar announced a 16 million euro support package for pubs, bars and nightclubs which are enduring a prolonged wait to raise shutters.
The new initiatives included waiving court fees and associated excise and stamp duties relating to the renewal of pub and other liquor licences and waiver of excise duty on on-trade liquor licences on renewal this year.
Mr Varadkar said: Our publicans are making a massive sacrifice to protect their communities and the government is determined to help.
“This package, in addition to the grants and subsidies already available, will help pub owners with expenses to do with getting ready for reopening.”
He said the vast majority of pubs had complied with the rules.
Gardai have expressed frustration at not being able to enforce the coronavirus regulations in the past.
The proposed Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers)(Covid-19) Bill 2020 will give a superintendent the power, in an extreme situation, to close an infringing business or in a less urgent scenario to go to a district court and ask that the bar be shut for a period of time.
Ms McEntee said: “What we have seen in the last number of weeks over the summer is an increase in those not complying.”
A total of 165 potential breaches were recorded by gardai between July 3 and August 23.
The minister added a small number of premises were repeatedly in violation of the rules.
Some 90% of recent outbreaks have been in private homes, the department of health has said.
The Cabinet decided not to make rules limiting the number gathering at houses to six criminally enforceable.
Ms McEntee said: “It was felt that this would be an extreme measure, particularly around entering someone’s home.”
The Cabinet agreed to publish draft legislation on Monday to be considered when the Dail resumes on Wednesday.
Another 127 new cases of Covid-19 and no further deaths have been reported by the Department of Health.
Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said: “While the number of people in critical care remains stable, we have seen an additional eight people hospitalised in the last 24 hours.
“If cases continue to rise, we will see an inevitable increase in the number of people hospitalised.
“We all have a role to play in preventing that from happening.”
Publicans said the extra money represented a “paltry” gesture.
Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the Licensed Vintners’ Association, said: “This is a paltry gesture which shows how little regard this government has for the troubles of the pub industry.
“We asked for support not sympathy and the Government has given us crumbs.”