Pub Practices found to be Discriminatory

‘Quotas’, ‘Regulars only’ and ‘Ban on accompanied children’ outlawed

Three important new cases from the ODEI have clarified that publicans who operate ‘quota’ systems, ‘regulars only’ policies and ban accompanied children from their premises are contrary to the Equal Status Act 2000. The Equality Authority which represented the claimants in two of the cases, and were consulted on the third, welcomed these decisions, one of which is the first such successful case under the ‘family status’ ground.

“These important cases reflect issues that require urgent change” said Equality Authority CEO Niall Crowley. “Pubs alongside hotels, restaurants and nightclubs are important venues for social interaction. Denial of access to particular groups in society effectively creates segregation that deepens the divisions in our society”.

“Publicans need to develop their knowledge of, and response to, obligations under the Equal Status Act 2000. The Equality Authority will assist this process with the publication of a code of practice on access to pubs, hotels, nightclubs and restaurants this year” he added.


Michael Mc Donagh vs. The Castle Inn, Birr, Co. Offaly, Represented by the Equality Authority


Bernard, Richard and Thomas Joyce vs. Liz Delaney’s Pub, Coolock, Dublin


“These cases reveal strategies being used by publicans seeking to circumvent the provisions of the Equal Status Act:-


  • applying a ‘regulars only’ excuse to refuse service to Travellers
  • operating a ‘quota system’ to limit the number of Travellers being served

“The quota system was found to be totally contrary to the provisions of the Equal Status Act while the ‘regulars only’ policy was exposed as a means of denying service to Travellers in these cases. Publicans who seek to avoid the Equal Status legislation by invoking these discriminatory devices are informed by these decisions that these practices are illegal, can be successfully challenged and will result in successful compensation claims. The successful outcome to these cases will serve as valuable precedents for Travellers who are being subjected to such strategies” said Niall Crowley.



  • in the Michael Mc Donagh case the publican admitted to operating a quota system whereby no more than 5 Travellers were served in his pub at any given time – no similar quota system is operated for settled people. When asked for his name by the complainant the owner gave the name ‘Billy Bagnell’ and wrote it down for the complainant. His real name is Mr. Patrick Coffey. Mr. McDonagh had written to Mr. Coffey through Form ODEI 5 seeking an explanation of the refusal of service “ in good faith expecting a conciliatory reply”. He had not expected proceedings to go as far as the investigation. He did not receive a reply. Mr. Coffey, when questioned as to why he did not reply said “ why should I? … I have enough to do”. The Complainant, a settled Traveller, was awarded £1,000 (1270 Euro) in compensation and the respondent was ordered to immediately review his practices to ensure compliance with the Equal Status Act in respect of everyone seeking service in his pub.
  • The Equality Authority was consulted by the Joyces in their own case but was not involved in their representation. This case centred around discrimination on the Traveller community ground based on a ‘regulars only’ policy. Bernard and Richard Joyce were awarded £700 each (889 Euro) in compensation for the three incidents of discrimination and Thomas Joyce £500 (635 Euro) for the two incidents of discrimination which he suffered.


John Maughan vs. The Glimmerman, Dublin, Represented by the Equality Authority

“Publicans must serve parents when accompanied by their children under 18 years old in all circumstances” – Equality Officer Dec. S2001 – 020.

“We welcome the first family status case under the Equal Status Act. The successful outcome to the case should ensure the practice of publicans better reflects the provisions of the Intoxicating Liquor Act which allows the presence of a child accompanied by a parent or guardian on a licenced premises. This case was also unique in that it was brought on three grounds of family status, disability and membership of the Traveller Community. While the case did not succeed on the other grounds it has usefully established that facilitating the presence of a guide dog is a necessary reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities” concluded Niall Crowley.


  • The claimant is visually impaired, entered the pub at 16.15 hours with his visually impaired wife, their 13 year old son and Mr. Maughan’s guide dog. The pub claimed it has a ‘no children’ policy. Section 34 (2) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1998 makes it legal for a child to be in a pub at the same time as its parents. Mr. Maughan sent his son outside and was served. His son later returned ( as it was raining) and Mr. Maughan was again refused service. When his son left again Mr. Maughan alleged that a member of staff said he could not be served as the pub serves (pre-packed) food and does not allow dogs on the premises. Mr. Maughan produced a card stating guide dogs are allowed entry to premises. He was then served until he enquired in conversation had the real reason for his refusal of service been his membership of the Traveller Community. He alleged he was refused service after that enquiry. The Equality Officer found that the claimant was discriminated on the family status ground because of the refusal of service in the presence of his 13 year old son. ” I consider that having a blanket ban on under 18 year olds being in pubs with their parents is a discriminatory policy against parents of under 18 year olds on the family status ground” stated the Equality Officer. The Equality Officer also decided that Mr. Maughan had established prima facie evidence of discrimination on the disability and Traveller community, but that the respondent succeeded in rebutting the inference of discrimination. Mr. Maughan was awarded £2,000 (2539 Euro) and the Glimmerman was ordered to take down any signs which give the impression that parents can not be served when accompanied by children under 18 years old and replaced with a sign stating “The owner of this pub is committed to treating people equally in accordance with the terms of the Equal Status Act 2000”.