The Government has been busy addressing three topical matters involving the sale of alcohol in Ireland. The most prominent among them is the legislative change to repeal a 90 year old law banning the sale of alcohol on Good Friday. We examine the scope of these proposals and the likely impact on the drinks and tourism industries.
Removing the Good Friday prohibition
The Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017, introduced on 23 February 2017, is at the First Stage in the Seanad. If enacted, this law will repeal the law prohibiting the sale of alcohol at licensed premises on Good Friday.
In 2010, an important Leinster v Munster rugby match took place on Good Friday. Publicans in Limerick, along with the vintners associations, successfully applied for an Area Exemption Order on economic grounds that the pubs in the vicinity of Thomond Park should be entitled to open on Good Friday. This was the first and last time since 1927 that a pub legally served alcohol in Ireland on Good Friday.
Campaigners for legislative change estimate that publicans and licence holders lose approximately 30m to 40m in sales revenue by closing on Good Friday.
Campaigners against legislative change say that there are only two days out of the year (Good Friday and Christmas Day) when the sale of alcohol is prohibited and that keeping the ban intact will not cause commercial hardship of such a gravity so as to justify allowing the sale of alcohol for a further 24 hours.
Consequences if the new Bill is enacted
Campaigners for the Bill believe the removal of the ban will produce positive economic results. The Licensed Trade sector is a key element of the tourism industry in Ireland, which contributes greatly to our economy. Easter weekend is a major holiday from a tourism perspective. Campaigners believe if the Bill is passed, licensed premises are likely to enjoy an estimated 30% increase in revenue during this week.
The removal of the ban would also allow licensed premises to trade during the full permitted hours, including late exemptions, on Holy Thursday night, essentially enabling late opening premises to profit from an increased time frame for sales of alcohol leading into the weekend.
On the other hand, pro-ban campaigners believe the removal may hinder attempts to tackle the serious health problems of alcohol abuse; and may encourage over-consumption of alcohol on public holidays. Also, this raises the question, will Christmas Day be next?
The legislation is...