A PENSIONER prosecuted by Donegal County Council for running a bar in his garden shed was acquitted yesterday.
Judge Kevin Kilrane said there was no evidence anybody was being charged money at the bar operated by Patsy Brogan (72) at his home in the Bluestack Mountains.
After the hearing, Mr Brogan and Daria Weiske (29), from Poland, who has served drinks in the bar, claimed they would celebrate by getting married.
Dismissing the charge of running an unlicensed bar, Judge Kilrane told Donegal District Court the shed had been converted to look like a bar and lounge.
Of Mr Brogan, he said: “He just might like the idea of looking at it as a bar and lounge. Many people have bars with bar stools in the basements of their homes.”
The judge also dismissed a second charge that Mr Brogan had several unused cars, caravans and lorries outside his home, which became known as “the Bog Hotel”, near Frosses, Co Donegal.
The two charges were brought by the county council under planning regulations.
Retired sergeant Tom Lyons told the court that he first visited the premises in 2003 when the shed was an ordinary building for bags and other debris.
When he revisited after being told it was run as a licensed premises Mr Brogan told him that three people drinking there were working for him around the house. Mr Lyons said: “There was no evidence that any money changed hands.” He added that Chief Supt Terri McGinn had investigated herself. He said: “I didn’t get any report that there was anything wrong.”
Earlier Donegal County Council planning executive Cillian Smith told the court that there was a complaint in June 2007 of planning irregularities. He saw a number of disused vehicles and trolleys and he issued a warrant for their removal in September 2007.
When he inspected again in October 2007 he saw the shed turned into a 60sq m bar with seating. There were tables, mirrors, pictures and other pub monuments on the walls.
Mr Smith added: “It was set up as a bar. It could be a bar anywhere in the rest of Ireland.” He again inspected the premises in January 2008, with an accompanying garda, and he pinned a notice of breach of planning regulations on the door of the house.
Later, when he spoke to Mr Brogan about closing the bar, he replied: “There’s no f***ing way you can get rid of the bar. You can do what you like.”
At this stage, Judge Kilrane said that what Mr Smith saw was a shed fitted out as a bar but there was no evidence it was used as a bar. The judge asked: “What law is there that he can’t drink with his family in the shed?”
Mr Brogan claimed at all times that the bar was for his private use and, while he welcomes callers, he said he does not charge for drink.
After the hearing, Ms Weiske said their marriage plans were very real. “Of course we will marry,” she said. “We might do it at Easter in my home in Poland.”
Mr Brogan said they were promised the use of a hotel in Donegal town “for free” if they chose to marry in Ireland.