Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016
Seanad Second Stage Speech
11 July 2018
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to move Second Stage of the Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016 in Seanad Eireann this afternoon. Deputy Alan Kelly introduced this Bill as a Private Members Bill in the Dail, where it received broad support from all sides of the House.
The principal purpose of the Bill is to create a new retail licence that will allow craft breweries and distilleries, many of which have sprung up in recent years, to sell intoxicating liquor manufactured on the premises to tourists and visitors who have participated in a guided tour of its facilities. These premises already hold a brewer’s or distiller’s excise licence, or a similar manufacturer’s licence, which authorises the licence holder to manufacture intoxicating liquor on the premises. The Revenue Commissioners have indicated that there are about 165 such licences at present.
We have seen a marked increase in the number of craft breweries and distilleries in recent years, and this trend is set to continue. This is a dynamic and entrepreneurial sector with real growth potential. It goes without saying that this Government is fully committed to promoting regional and local development and, in that context, to fully supporting the job-creation potential of artisan food production and local tourism initiatives.
Some craft breweries and distilleries already admit tourists and visitors for guided tours of their premises. This not only serves to increase tourism activity in local areas but also create local employment opportunities. It also contributes to economic activity by generating demand for ancillary services such as accommodation, catering and transport.
Having completed a tour of such premises it is only natural that tourists and visitors may wish to purchase some of the intoxicating liquor products being produced. They may wish to consume the products in a bar or café on the premises where such facilities exist, or to purchase the products for later consumption off the premises. Senators may be aware that some of the larger breweries and distilleries have already obtained public house licenses, which enable them to sell alcohol products, including those produced on the premises, to visitors. For smaller craft brewers or distillers, that may not be an option, not least because of the outlays required to extinguish an existing public house licence. The purpose of this short Bill is to cater for their needs. This Bill provides that a person who already holds a relevant manufacturer’s licence – namely a brewer of beer for sale licence; a distiller of spirits licence; a maker of cider or perry for sale licence; a maker for sale of sweets licence or a rectifier or compounder of spirits licence – may apply to the Circuit or District Court for a certificate entitling him or her to receive a retail licence from the Revenue Commissioners.
In order to apply for such a certificate the applicant must show to the Court’s satisfaction that a manufacturing licence is in force in respect of the premises and that an appropriate mechanism is in place to limit the sale of intoxicating liquor produced on the premises to persons who have completed a guided tour of the premises. During the Bill’s passage through the Dail, this latter condition has been relaxed and I will return to this point shortly.
The Court will grant the requested certificate unless it prohibits the issuing of a licence on the grounds of the—
– character, misconduct or unfitness of the applicant,
– unfitness or inconvenience of the premises, or
– unsuitability of the premises for the needs of persons residing in the neighbourhood.
The successful applicant must then apply to the Revenue Commissioners for a licence. This is the standard procedure for the granting of new retail licences under the Licensing Acts. A licence issued under this legislation will permit the sale of intoxicating liquor produced on the premises for consumption on or off the premises to persons who have completed a guided tour. Arising from an opposition Report Stage amendment that was carried in the Dail, the licence will also allow for the sale of intoxicating liquor for consumption off the premises to persons who have not completed a guided tour. The licence will authorise such sales between 10.00 am and 7.00 pm on every day of the year except Christmas Day.
The remaining provisions in section 1 are standard provisions in the Licensing Acts. Subsection (3) provides that a licence issued under the Bill will expire on 30 September each year and may be renewed, while subsection (4) provide for the renewal of the licence by the Revenue Commissioners. Under 1986 legislation, intoxicating liquor licences are renewed automatically by the Revenue Commissioners on payment of the appropriate excise duty unless an objection to renewal has been lodged with the District Court on the basis that the premises concerned have not been operated in a peaceable and orderly manner during the preceding year. Subsection (7) provides for the duty to be paid in respect of a licence issued under this section; subsection (8) contains the standard tax clearance provision, while subsections (9) and (10) provide for offences for breaches of licence conditions. Finally, subsection (11) sets out definitions for the purposes of the Bill, including a definition of “guided tour”. The essential features of the definition of guided tour are as follows:
– The tour must include an explanation of, or information on, the process whereby the intoxicating liquor is manufactured; it does not necessarily require a physical inspection of parts of premises that may present a risk to the health or safety of individuals;
– The tour may be led by a guide, or be self-guided;
– A ticket must be issued to participants in the tour, irrespective of whether or not an entrance fee is charged.
Inclusion of this definition will assist licence holders by clarifying the essential requirements of a guided tour and will enhance legal certainty for them. The purpose of section 2 is to prevent premises that obtain a licence under this legislation from benefiting from general exemption orders, special exemption orders and occasional licences. These limitations formed part of Deputy Kelly’s original Bill and are intended to limit the risks of abuses.
Section 3 contains technical amendments to the Licensing (Ireland) Act 1833. Section 4 amends the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and has been requested by the Revenue Commissioners in order to ensure tax compliance on the part of applicants for licences. Finally, section 5 is a standard provision in relation the short title, commencement and collective citation of the Act. The Revenue Commissioners have advised that once the Bill is enacted they will put the relevant IT and administration requirements in place for the processing of applications and collection of the excise duty in respect of the licences. It will not be possible to commence the Bill until these measures are in place.
Before concluding, I want to refer briefly to the subject-matter of the two Committee Stage amendments that I have tabled with Government approval. As I mentioned, opposition amendments were carried in the Dail which will permit off sales to persons who have not participated in a guided tour of the premises. This represents is a clear departure from the original purpose of the Bill, and broadens its scope.
I want to stress that the Committee Stage amendments that I am proposing, and which we will discuss shortly, are not intended to reverse the off sales option, but to address difficulties with the amended text that have been identified by the Attorney General’s Office. Unless these difficulties are addressed now, implementation of the Bill’s provisions may encounter difficulties.
In the meantime, I commend the Bill to the House.