Sale of Alcohol Bill

In last week’s newsletter, we brought to your attention changes contained in the new Bill that would provide for Distance Sales legislation

The Sale of Alcohol Bill is a bringing together dozens of pieces of legislation relating to intoxicating liquor that have been on our statute books as far back as 1815.

What we have is a patchwork of 100 laws 2/3 of which predate the foundation of our state 100 years ago that need modernisation and reform.

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD suggested that one of the big changes will be in the way that licenses are obtained, this includes off-licences

Anyone who wishes to apply for a license must still go to the courts but the responsibility for licensing will move from the Circuit court to the district court

Applicants for a license will be required to notify the local fire authority, An Garda Siochana and the HSE of their application and publish a notice in the local media.

in addition to these bodies, a representative of a local authority and local people may object to the granting or renewal of licenses

The grounds on which an objection can be made will among other things include

  • The number of similar premises in the same area
  • The unsuitability of a proposed premises for those living in the neighbourhood
  • If the premises is not operated in a manner which protects staff and patrons from harassment including sexual harassment

Reducing the licensing process to the district courts should reduce cost of making applications and fees. At present, anyone who wishes to open a pub or off-licence can only do so if they’re buying an existing license from a current publican or off-license holder for an undisclosed fee.

This process , called “extinguishment” was introduced over 100 years ago.

in the last 10 years 329 new off-licences were opened , the majority of which were the subject of transfer of a pub licence in a small community to be used in an urban area as an off-licence.

The new Bill is attempting to reverse this trend by eliminating the need to extinguish an existing licence,  but not for off-licences.

If somebody wishes to reopen the pub which has sold on its license or open a new pub in a different premises in the same town , the cost of buying another license may be prohibitive, according to the Minister in her explanatory rationale.

The new proposal in the Bill is that there will be a three-year “transition” period following the enactment of the Bill and during this period the extinguishment provision will still apply.

After three years it will no longer be in place except for off-licences.

No new licenses granted after this Bill is enacted will be allowed to be offered for purchase to those wishing to open an off-licence.

It may be argued that the value of a Publicans licence will be reduced from its current “pricepoint” but the reality has been that the market for such licences has been overwhelmingly an off-licence market.