The Bill, first introduced in the Seanad two years ago by Mr Varadkar was finally passed on Friday by the Upper House. It stalled in the Seanad over a year ago after Fine Gael Senators complained about the financial impact the proposals would have on small retailers to implement measures to structurally separate alcohol from other products.
A compromise agreed after consultations in the past month will allow alcohol be displayed in three storage units or placed behind a barricade up to 1.5 metres high as part of provisions of the Bill.
Chief executive of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents’ Association Vincent Jennings said “all of this was totally unnecessary”.
“The blame for the delay lies firmly at the feet of a department that had stubbornly refused to invite retailers to meet whilst they were contemplating the legislative path, a refusal that is at odds with Better Government guidelines and requirements for all departments conducting pre-legislative Regulatory Impact Assessments”.
Shelflife 15th December – Breakthrough in Alcohol Bill
A breakthrough has been reached in the debate over the dreaded alcohol bill, which has been described by CSNA head Vincent Jennings as a “significant concession to retailers”.
In great news for retailers, a new version of Section 20 (Structural Separation) of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has today been ratified, having passed through all stages of the Seanad. The redrafted Bill will now proceed to the Dáil in January.
The development is a huge success for the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA) which organised a petition against the previously proposed Section 20. This intervention avoided the implementation of legislation which would have proved extremely costly for small and medium retailers and curbed adult shoppers’ ability to browse the alcohol section in their local store.
Speaking to ShelfLife today, Vincent Jennings, CEO of the CSNA said there will now be a two-year timeline for retailers to implement the new legislation, as opposed to the one year schedule originally outlined.
Under the new Bill, Section 20 will include three options for retailers as follows:
- Implementation of a barrier which cannot be see-through (such as a restaurant-style canvas) and no less than 1.2m in height, to be installed in front of the in-store alcohol section. This will mean consumers make an “adult conscious decision” to browse alcohol in-store
- Installation of self-contained units, including a door over a shelf, which must be non-visible up to 1.5m
- A small amount of alcohol, up to 3 bays (up to 1m in width and 2.2m in height), are allowed to be fully visible
The legislation also includes the provision that all alcohol stored behind a shop counter must not be visible.
Jennings described the new legislation as representing “a significant concession to retailers”. While expense may still be incurred by some stores, it will prove “not anywhere near” the measures previously proposed.
What’s more, small convenience stores which contain no more than three bays of alcohol (as outlined above) will not be required to make any changes to their existing set-up. ShelfLife is sure this news will come as a major relief to many small retailers who previously expressed their concern over the impact Section 20 would exert on their businesses.
Irish Independent 15th December – Barriers and separate shelf units for alcohol in shops
Shops are to be given a series of options aimed at making alcohol less visible to customers as part of a compromise deal put forward by the Government. Health Minister Simon Harris has been forced to water down the controversial Public Health Alcohol Bill after it was met with major opposition from lobby groups and a number of Fine Gael politicians. The central tenet of the bill will see shops obliged to put up screens or turnstiles to make alcohol less visible. But details of the plan, which has been seen by the Irish Independent, will still allow certain shops to keep alcohol on display. Shops will be asked to adopt one of three options for the display and sale of alcohol:
Health Minister Simon Harris says measures are a landmark
- The separation of alcohol products from all other groceries behind a non-see through barrier of at least 1.2 metres in height;
- The placing of alcohol in stand-alone cabinets where the product is not visible up to a height of 1.5 metres;
- Introducing a maximum of three normal units or ‘bays’ of shelving for the display and sale of alcohol products. This will be aimed specifically at small shops.
The measures are the first of their kind introduced by a Fine Gael government in the area of public health. It is understood shops will be given a period of two years to bring in the plan. Last night, Mr Harris said he believed the measures were a landmark. “As a country, we have already shown that public health legislation in the area of tobacco can work, now let’s do the same for alcohol,” Mr Harris said. Nonetheless, the measures mark a partial climbdown by Mr Harris, and a concession to smaller shops from the original radical “booze curtain”. The curtain plan previously emerged as the most controversial part of the wide-ranging legislation aimed at curbing the country’s drinking culture. The changes mean that very small shops can have a limited number of three shelves on which display alcohol. However, they must remove all alcohol from behind tills–a restriction that will apply to all outlets.
Turnstile Larger stores which still have limited space must erect a physical barrier of not less than 1.5 metres and no higher than 2.2 metres, with enclosed storage units. Bigger supermarkets and convenience stores must put up a physical barrier of no less than 1.2metresandalsoinstallsome form of restricted entry, such as a turnstile or saloon doors. The idea is that customers have to make a conscious decision to enter the area in which alcohol is sold.
Vincent Jennings, of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, said the original plans were unworkable and too costly for smaller shops. He criticised the failure of the department to consult with the representatives of the small and medium-sized shops beforehand. “It was a disgrace that these proposals were originally drawn up without any consultation. It unnecessarily delayed the legislation,” he added. Meanwhile, the Irish Wine Association said that it strongly opposed a labelling proposal in the bill, which contains “draconian measures” that will have a devastating effect on the sector. It said that labelling changes proposed in the bill would mean less choice for consumers, an increase in business costs and that it could lead to higher prices.