Doin’ Tha Tap Dance ….

on

Finally. The single biggest clustermuck in law around Irish craft breweries & cideries looks like it’s being addressed. For a number of years, I have constantly bitched about the dumb-as-clownshoes anomoly that  Irish Craft Brewers & Cider producers were being hamstrung in their contribution to tourism & local economy growth participation by not being able to operate a taproom & brewery-side sales like their foreign counterparts in the Irish market do in their home countries unless they forked out for an expensive pub license (which is just completely cost prohibitive, as many pub licenses are being bought up by the multiples to use as liquor licenses for new stores.

The fact this change is being introduced as a private members bill from a member of the labour party who is considered a divisive politican for his role in things such as Irish Water shouldn’t detract from the fact this is a GOOD proposition despite the proposer’s public perception. So just exactly what is this bill, what does it look like & what does it seek to change exactly?

The Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016

An Act to provide for the grant of a licence authorising the sale of intoxicating liquor to visitors at breweries and distilleries and similar premises, and to provide for related matters. Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows: Licence for sale of intoxicating liquor at brewery, distillery, etc. 1.

(1) Notwithstanding anything in the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011, where –

  • (a) beer is brewed under a Brewer of Beer for Sale’s Licence,
  • (b) spirits are distilled under a Spirit Distiller’s Licence, or
  • (c) cider or perry is made under a Maker of Cider or Perry for Sale’s licence, on premises to which visitors are admitted on guided tours, the Revenue Commissioners shall, on application to them by the licence holder concerned, grant to the licence holder, or a person nominated by him or her, a licence under this section.

(2) A licence under this section authorises, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day other than Good Friday or Christmas Day, but during no other period, the sale to such visitors of beer brewed, spirits distilled or cider or perry made on those premises, but no other intoxicating liquor, for consumption on or off those premises.

(3) Where a licence is granted under this section, a person who sells intoxicating liquor at the premises concerned otherwise than in accordance with that licence is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a Class A fine.

(4) Upon the grant of a licence under this section, any other licence under the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011 relating to the premises concerned ceases to have effect. Restriction of certain provisions of Licensing Acts 2. Sections 4 and 5 and Part III of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927 and section 11 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1962 do not apply in relation to the premises licenced under section 2. Short title, construction and collective citation 3.

  • (1) This Act may be cited as the Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Act, 2016. 3
  • (2) The Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011and this Act may be cited together as the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2016, and shall be construed together as one Act.

Why this bill?

Purpose of Bill Many distilleries and breweries, including micro-breweries, are tourist attractions and welcome visitors on guided tours. Under the Licencing Acts, however, unless the owners acquire a pub licence or an off-licence, it is not possible to sell those visitors the product that is made on the premises. The purpose of this short Bill is to rectify that situation by permitting the sale by distilleries and breweries of their own product to tourists and other visitors. The Bill also covers the making of cider and perry

The Bill explained, section-by-section

Section 1 provides that, where beer is brewed, spirits are distilled or cider or perry is made, in accordance with the appropriate licence, on premises to which visitors are admitted on guided tours, the Revenue Commissioners shall, on application grant a licence under this section.

Such a licence authorises the sale to such visitors of the beer brewed, spirits distilled or the cider or perry made on those premises, but no other intoxicating liquor, for consumption on or off those premises. Sales may take place only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on any day other than Good Friday or Christmas Day.

A licence holder who sells intoxicating liquor at the premises concerned otherwise than in accordance with that licence is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a Class A fine.

A licence granted under this section revokes any existing licence granted under the Licensing Acts relating to the premises, e.g., a publican’s licence or an off-licence.

Section 2 provides that certain provisions of the Licencing Acts relating to exemption orders, occasional licences and other non-applicable provisions do not apply to licences under this section.

Section 3 provides in standard form for the short title and the collective citation and construction of the Act.

Does the class have any questions?

This bill while good, frankly the bulk of it removes a massive pain-in-the-ass that I feel stifles our craft beer, cider & spirit producers. However, somethings it does do feel like a handshake-turned-slap-in-the-face:

  1. The operating window is just way too narrow. And I can see local pubs through the objecting via their lobbyists from the VFI, especially around the 10am serving time on Sundays, when pubs can only serve from noon. The VFI too often behave like a bunch of self-entitled fascists who blame anything/everything when their business down-turns because their members largely refuse to innovate, have depended too long on cushie deals with macro producers & the mythos of ‘the Irish pub’.
  2. The fines for breaching the operating window is EUR5,000 maximum. Ouch!
  3. This isn’t a victory yet. It’s merely a proposed private members bill. There’s a zillion reasons it could get shot down & never passed ranging from “It’s from Labour ….. kill it in the face no matter how worthwhile it is” (and this is the biggest possibility as FG/FF have rarely if ever allowed an opposition bill to get passed in their sitting history in leadership of the Dail) to ‘technicalities’.
  4. There is no reference to how those who have acquired pub licenses for current taprooms can transfer/change out their existing license for this defacto one of it suited them
  5. Isn’t this unfair on Diageo & their Guinness Storehouse? No it isn’t. Not even slightly. If anything, too often just because of numbers that farce of an exhibit is used to justify too many things. It DOESN’T drive regional tourism, nor does it even remotely let people get close to the product (because the truth would hurt), or allow people to engage with the concept of ‘beer tourism’, which is rising.

I do hope it gets accepted with modifications around the operating hours to allow breweries to match pubs if they wanted to, & that it will also allow them to operate micro beer festivals on-site subject to health-and-safety/security regulations.

Featured image courtesy of Rye River Brewery, Celbridge, Co. Kildare

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