Publicans have described the law prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Good Friday as an archaic and discriminatory law which has no place in a modern country.
The two main representative groups, Vintners Federation of Ireland (Outside Dublin) and the Licensed Vintners Association (Dublin publicans) have called on the Government to immediately introduce legislation to treat Good Friday as an ordinary trading day for pubs, restaurants and hotels.
The call follows the announcement that Ireland will play Switzerland in a friendly soccer international on Good Friday the 25th March in the Aviva Stadium. In addition the Ireland 2016 celebrations will have a particular focus on Easter 2016.
With the 26th of February being widely tipped as the election date, publicans say the Government must act immediately if amending legislation is to be passed in time.
Speaking at the launch of the #AboutTime campaign, Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA said their legal advice was that changing this outdated law is relatively straightforward, but it requires amending legislation to be passed by the Oireachtas.
“Every Good Friday we have thousands of tourists wandering around the streets of our cities and towns asking why they can’t go into a pub for a drink. Those numbers will be boosted this year because of the Easter 2016 celebrations. We are also going to have up to 50,000 soccer fans in Dublin facing the same problem outside the stadium.”
“Due to our archaic licensing laws not only will those attending the match be able to have a drink in the stadium but so also will those travelling by train, plane, bus or ferry, those visiting the North, going to the theatre or the dogs! We have been making representations to the current Minister on this issue since June 2014 but to date the Government hasn’t delivered.”
“The Easter 2016 celebrations – and now this soccer international – provide a terrific opportunity to showcase our capital city and for the country as a whole to say we are open for business. It would be ridiculous if the entire hospitality sector was again forced to close on Good Friday 2016 because of a law passed in 1927” O’Keeffe concluded.
Padraig Cribben CEO of the VFI said the current law amounted to discrimination against the licensed trade and made no financial sense as the exchequer was losing up to €6m in lost taxes.
“The Government previously indicated that Good Friday trading would be permitted in the context of the Sale of Alcohol Bill but so far nothing has happened. Most other retail businesses are open and trading so why is the licensed trade being treated differently? We know many consumers have a drink at home on Good Friday but they should have the option to go out for one if they so choose. For example this year there are hundreds of thousands of fans around the country who may well want to watch the soccer match on television in their local pubs.”
“It’s estimated that up to a quarter of a million people will pass through Dublin Airport that weekend and many of them will be visitors or Irish people returning to see their families. A visit to a pub is often amongst the highlights of their trip, but once again they will be faced with locked doors on Good Friday unless the law is changed. We believe there is broad public support for this measure all over the country and it should be a no brainer for a Government claiming to be pro business and seeking re-election to introduce the required legislation” Cribben said.