Home > General Scheme: Sale of Alcohol Bill 2022.

Ireland. Department of Justice. (2022) General Scheme: Sale of Alcohol Bill 2022. Dublin: Government of Ireland.

PDF (General Scheme: Sale of Alcohol Bill 2022)

From press release:

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee received Cabinet approval for her draft Bill to reform Ireland’s antiquated licensing system. The present system is based on a patchwork of 100 laws - some of which are over 200 years old and two thirds of which pre-date the foundation of the State 100 years ago. Minister McEntee believes the laws are in significant need of reform, and today published the General Scheme of the Sale of Alcohol Bill to outline how she intends to implement these reforms.

Minister McEntee said it is vitally important that we retain restrictions on the sale of alcohol and on who is permitted to sell it, and to whom. These proposals will ensure that the sale of alcohol will remain closely regulated. Ireland will maintain a restrictive licensing system in general, with licenses only granted by the courts – with objections allowed from fire authorities, the HSE, An Garda Síochána and local communities. In addition, a representative of a local authority and local people with a genuine interest may object to the granting or renewal of a licence.

To provide a greater opportunity for community voices to be heard, as well as to streamline the current system, responsibility for licensing will move from the Circuit Court to the District Court. The system will be streamlined by significantly reducing the number of licenses available and online renewal will be possible where there are no objections. Overall, this will help to reduce the costs involved whilst maintaining an accessible and transparent system in which the HSE, communities, local authorities and Gardaí can raise any necessary concerns around public safety and public health. The grounds on which an objection can be made will, amongst others, include:

  • the number of similar premises in the same area 
  • the unsuitability of the proposed premises for those living in the neighbourhood 
  • for licence renewals, a new category of objection that the premises were not operated in a manner which protects staff, patrons and performers from harassment, including sexual harassment – this is in line with Minister McEntee’s Zero Tolerance plan to tackle domestic, sexual and gender based violence

The Minister said the pub has a central role in Irish cultural life and the reforms will support pubs and the hospitality industry.

  • To support the development of the night time economy and ensure our licensing system meets the needs of modern society and economy, Minister McEntee, among other reforms, is proposing:
  • the creation of new annual permits for late bars and nightclubs, to replace the current system where a Special Exemption Order is required every time such a venue wants to open after normal hours
  • this builds on previous measures introduced by the government to support the late night sector, such as the decision to halve the cost of SEOs in Budget 2023
  • opening hours for late bars should remain at 2.30am and, to bring Ireland in line with other European countries, nightclubs will have the option to remain open until 6am – with the requirement that alcohol cannot be served after 5am, with dancing able to continue until closing time
  • it is envisaged that this will largely be availed of by bigger nightclubs and venues, mainly in cities, and will not be availed of by many nightclubs
  • nightclubs and late night bars must adhere to strict requirements for these permits – they will require court approval for such permits, with objections allowed from fire authorities, the HSE, An Garda Síochána and local communities
  • they will be required to have CCTV on the premises and have security staff properly accredited with the Private Security Authority
  • nightclubs must also have 20 per cent of their floor allocated for dancing, and a live band or DJ must be playing
    all venues must protect staff, patrons and performers from harassment, including sexual harassment in line with the new Night Time Economy Charter and the government’s Zero Tolerance Plan to tackle Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based violence

The proposed legislation also strikes a balance between maintaining strict controls and safeguards while supporting our night time culture and economy. New enforcement measures in the General Scheme of the Bill include:

  • strengthening conditions around the online sale of alcohol - online sales must be paid for in advance and the person delivering the alcohol must check that the person receiving the delivery is 18 or older. Failing to do so will be an offence
  • allowing An Garda Siochána apply to the District Court for a temporary closure order where a licensed premises has failed to comply with an direction to preserve order on their premises
  • allow An Garda Siochána issue fixed charge notices for offences such as being ‘found on’ licensed premises during prohibited hours, consuming alcohol on such premises during prohibited hours and falsely representing oneself as being resident in licensed premises for the purposes of obtaining alcohol
  • Off licence opening hours will be standardised across the week – and off licences will have the option of opening from 10.30am to 10pm seven days a week. This is a change from the current position where these hours apply six days a week, with Sunday sales only permitted from 12.30pm on Sunday.
  • The General Scheme also proposes an amendment to the so-called ‘extinguishment’ provision, whereby anyone seeking to open a new premises or an off licence must first purchase a licence from an existing licence holder in order to do so.
  • This can be an impediment to opening a new pub in towns and villages where some premises have shut, particularly in rural areas.
  • Often, these licences are sold in a closed transactions to a large supermarket chain to be used for the purposes of an in store off licence in an urban area. And the cost of a licence can be prohibitive for someone seeking to open a new pub in a rural town which may need it.
  • After a transition period of three years following the enactment of the Bill, Minister McEntee proposes to remove the extinguishment requirement to obtain a seven day on licence.
  • The ‘extinguishment’ requirement will remain in place for off licences however, and will only be applicable to licences already in existence on the enactment of this Bill. No new licences granted under this Bill could be sold for extinguishment purposes.

To further support night time culture, Minister McEntee proposes to create a new “cultural amenity licence” for galleries, theatres, museums and other cultural venues.

  • this would apply to small cultural venues in towns and villages, and not just larger national venues in our cities
  • this will strictly be available for venues where the sale of alcohol is not the main activity on the premises, and is only for the convenience of people attending the venue for another reason – such as an exhibition
  • and it will only be allowed for a set period of time – between one hour before and one hour after a performance takes place
  • these licences will also require court approval and will have to meet the same requirements as a fully licensed premises – to ensure a level playing field

It is the Minister’s intention to consult further following the publication of the General Scheme of the Bill, including pre-legislative scrutiny at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice. It is also the Minister’s intention to bring a final Bill before the Oireachtas and enact the legislation in 2023.

Item Type
Publication Type
Drug Type
Intervention Type
October 2022
443 p.
Government of Ireland
Corporate Creators
Ireland. Department of Justice
Place of Publication

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