Friday, February 10, 2017

Publicans say Good Friday alcohol ban has no place in a modern Ireland


goodEVERY YEAR, BEMUSED tourists stand outside closed pubs in Temple Bar in Dublin on Good Friday.

They don’t understand or haven’t heard that there are two days in the calendar year that Irish pubs close – and one of them is around Easter time.

Publicans have long campaigned for the law to be scrapped.

Every year, the Minister for Justice of the day is asked if it will happen on their watch.

On Monday, the two main representative groups, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) have called on the government to immediately introduce legislation to treat Good Friday as an ordinary trading day for pubs, restaurants and hotels.

Last year, they made a similar call, arguing that there was a particular impetus to lift the ban due to the 1916 centenary celebrations and the Ireland versus Switzerland friendly soccer international.

However, the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald didn’t budge on the issue and ruled out any changes.

Speaking at the launch of their campaign, Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA said the rationale for a change to the law was compelling.

He said the law hasn’t been changed in 90 years, stating that it is “no longer appropriate for a modern era”.
There is no case for the licensed trade to be treated differently to other retail businesses. Easter is a huge tourism weekend right across the country. Forcing pubs and all licensed hospitality businesses to close sends a very negative signal to tourists and visitors who are left baffled and disappointed by the measure.
Last year, O’Keeffe said tourists were dumbstruck to find that after paying for flights to Ireland, they could not buy a drink in an Irish bar.

“One man from the United States pointed out that in his country there was a separation of Church and State and that’s what one would expect in a modern democracy. Others pointed out the negative effect on local business. So this shows the fallacy of the government’s claim to be pro-business,” said O’Keeffe.

The group’s estimate businesses lose between €30 and €40 million by closing on Good Friday.

Padraig Cribben CEO of the VFI said the public view the law as being completely out-of-date and publicans believe there is broad support for the law to be amended.
In 2017, consumers should have the option to go out for a drink on Good Friday if they so choose. Indeed many are choosing to drink at home or organise house parties on the day. Friday itself is a very important trading day – for many publicans it accounts for 30% of their weekly business – and this is especially true of bank holiday weekends.
“Publicans have been engaging with politicians on this issue for the last six years but the constant response is the issue will be addressed as part of a new Sale of Alcohol Bill. It’s as if ministers are living in never-never land while the rest of us have to live in the real world,” he said.


Cribbens said now is the time for politicians to show the political will to make the change, and made an appeal to the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald to introduce the necessary legislation in time for Easter 2017. 

O’Keeffe said the groups have not received any negative feedback from either the unions or from health lobbyists on the issue.

He added that publicans are only campaigning for pubs to be allowed serve on Good Friday and said they were happy to remain closed on Christmas Day.

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