Lawyers at Addleshaw Goddard say it will not be surprising to see some “significant amendments” proposed to a bill aimed at modernising Ireland’s licensing laws.
The bill is scheduled for priority drafting during the coming session of the Oireachtas, but Addleshaw Goddard anticipates “sharp opposition from vested interests” that may slow its passage.
In a note on the firm’s website, its lawyers cite a proposed amendment to the need to extinguish a publican's licence in order to create a new licence or off-licence.
The firm says that this element of the bill has already come in for some trenchant criticism from rural TDs, and is likely to be “vigorously opposed” by sections of the vintners’ organisations.
‘Challenge’ for nightclubs
The Addleshaw Goddard analysis also states that the proposed opening of nightclubs until 6am, with service until 5am, will be a challenge to manage, and may lead to some venues having difficulty with staffing. It points out that an Garda Síochána have expressed concern about this proposal.
Under the bill, pubs will also be allowed to stay open until 12.30am every night of the week.
At an Oireachtas committee hearing on the bill last week, representatives of Alcohol Action Ireland and the Institute of Public Health expressed concern about the effects of longer opening hours on public health.
Another aspect of the bill would see annual permits for late bars and nightclubs replacing the current system of special exemption orders.
Addleshaw Goddard says that it is not yet clear what the cost of the proposed new annual permit will be.
“Given the significant court stamp duty and excise duty, which is levied under the current special-exemption regime, the cost of any such permit is likely to be considerable and, as any required duty will have to be paid up-front, the cost of such a permit may be an issue for some operators,” its lawyers say.
Overall, however, it describes the bill as ”a welcome and long overdue” review of the alcohol-licensing code.
“Aspects of the current licensing regime are illogical and inconvenient, making alcohol licensing a minefield which can be costly and difficult to manage,” the lawyers say.