The Sale of Alcohol Bill has the potential to undermine the entire rural pub trade and unless some sections of the Bill are altered many family-run businesses will close, says the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland.
While many elements within the Sale of Alcohol Bill are welcomed by the trade, publicans are concerned by the proposal to abolish ‘extinguishment’ – the licensing system that allows a new pub open only when another pub permanently closes.
VFI Chief Executive Paul Clancy says: “This move will create a deregulated on-trade where the number of licences in operation will potentially be unlimited. This will massively impact villages that right now are struggling to support one small pub.
“The Department of Justice says proposals for the deregulation of the licensed trade are being introduced in response to the decrease in rural pub numbers. It says the move will stimulate growth of new pubs in areas where they are in decline for over 20 years but, in our view, this proposal will completely undermine the trade.
“Pubs are in decline in rural areas not because of any barrier to entry but for a number of other reasons, including demographics and changing consumer habits.
“Deregulation will precipitate the closure of many pubs as the owners decide to exit the business in the face of unsustainable competition. While the adage ‘the market will find its level’ is strictly true, it fails to take into account the cultural and community value of the existing pubs,” says Paul Clancy.
According to the VFI, the principle of Extinguishment is accepted as a legitimate practise in the Sale of Alcohol Bill where it will remain for new off licences. The VFI requests the same principle is applied to the on-trade.