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Mongan, Deirdre (2018) Alcohol licensing in Ireland. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 65, Spring 2018 , p. 23.

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Because of concerns about the negative impact that alcohol can have on individuals and communities, licensing statutes generally include a right for community members to object to the grant of a new licence or a renewal of a licence. The National Community Action on Alcohol Network, convened and supported by the Alcohol Forum, was formed in early 2017 to support community action on alcohol in Ireland and to facilitate collective working on issues of common concern. It approached the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) to develop a legal guide on the licensing process in Ireland, as it is recognised that there is a link between the licensing of alcohol and its consumption. The guide,1 published in May 2017, was compiled amid growing concerns about the widespread availability of alcohol in communities. It is intended to be a practical guide to the when, where and how of objecting to a proposed grant or renewal of a licence.

Licence types

  • An on-licence grants permission to sell intoxicating liquor for consumption either on or off the premises. Most current on-licences are full licences, that is, any type of alcohol may be sold during all permitted opening hours.
  • An occasional licence permits an existing on-licence holder to sell alcohol during a special event, from a place other than that to which their existing on-licence is attached (e.g. a bar might have a drinks tent at a festival or Christmas market).
  • An off-licence grants permission to sell intoxicating liquor for consumption off the premises. There are five types: spirit retailer’s off-licence; beer retailer’s off-licence; wine retailer’s off-licence; sweets retailer’s off-licence (sweets are products like mead); and the cider retailer’s off-licence.
  • A public dancing licence grants permission to premises to hold a public dance or other entertainment, but it does not entitle the holder to sell alcohol.

There are a number of ‘exemptions’ that may be obtained in order to allow a licensed premises to open during otherwise prohibited hours. Bars that wish to gain such exemptions to stay open late will almost certainly require a public dance licence in order to be granted the exemption. Exemptions cannot be objected to. Therefore, if you wish to object to the operation of a nightclub, you must object to the public dance licence.

Objecting to a proposed grant or renewal of a licence

How can I know that an application is being made?

Applicants for a new licence must advertise their intention to make such an application in a newspaper circulating in the place in which the proposed premises are situated at least 21 days before the application is to be made. The superintendent of the Garda Síochána of the district in which the premises are situated also must be put on notice of any application for a new licence. An applicant intending to apply for an annual public dancing licence must publish notice of their intention to do this at least one month before the hearing. Existing licences must be renewed each year by Revenue. Most licences expire on 30 September each year, with the exception of wholesale dealer’s licences that are held in conjunction with other off-licences; in these cases, licences expire on 30 June.

What licences can be objected to?

Members of the public can object to any application for a new licence or any renewal of a licence in the civil parish in which they live or otherwise occupy or pay rates (e.g. as a business person). In relation to public dancing licences, any person who appears, to the judge, to be interested in the application may be heard in opposition. The superintendent of the Garda Síochána of the district in which the premises are situated is also a competent objector.

Where and when can I object?

Applications for new on-licences are made to the Circuit Court in the town nearest the premises and in the county in which the premises are situated. An objection in writing (which is not necessary) should be addressed to the county registrar of that circuit. Applications for new off-licences are made to the District Court in which the premises is situated. Objections in writing (which is not necessary) should be addressed to the District Court clerk for that district. Objections to renewals should be made to the relevant District Court for the premises. The very first application for a public dancing licence may be made at any sitting of the District Court in which the premises are situated. Subsequent applications must be made in September each year at the annual licensing court.

The main grounds of objection

The main grounds of objection are as follows:

  • The character, misconduct or unfitness of the applicant: Character and misconduct are generally considered together and relate to an applicant’s public reputation; unfitness refers to the applicant’s fitness to run a licensed premises.
  • Unfitness or inconvenience of the new premises: A premises will not be fit and convenient if it has previously been disqualified from ever-being licensed; or a license in respect of the premises has previously been forfeited.
  • Unsuitability for the needs of persons residing in the neighbourhood: To advance an objection on this ground, an objector would need to be clear on who are the persons that reside in the neighbourhood; what are their needs; and how the proposed new premises is unsuitable for those needs.
  • The adequacy of the existing number of licensed premises of the same character in the neighbourhood: This relates to whether the existing number of licensed premises satisfies the existing level of demand for such premises. This will involve consideration of changes in volume of sales and changes in population.
  • The number of previously licensed houses in the neighbourhood: This considers if the existing number of licensed premises in the area is sufficient to meet existing demand. The demand to be met must be existing demand; any projected increases in demand (e.g. due to development in the area) are not relevant.
  • Manner in which a premises has been conducted in the previous year: Any evidence that the premises has been conducted in a disorderly manner would be relevant to this ground (e.g. convictions for ‘after hours’ trading, permitting drunkenness on the premises, serving to drunken or underage persons, etc.).

Further information on the licensing process and how to object to the grant or renewal of a licence may be found in the full report.

 

 

1    National Community Action on Alcohol Network and Tracey S (2017) A community guide to alcohol licensing in Ireland. Letterkenny: Alcohol Forum. http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/28432/

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