Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016: Report Stage

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, are related. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are physical alternatives to No. 1. Amendment No. 3 is a physical alternative to No. 2. Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, lines 10 to 25, to delete all words from and including “(1) Where” in line 10 down to and including line 25 and substitute the following:

“(1) Where a person who holds a relevant licence (in this section referred to as “the applicant”) duly gives notice of his or her intention to apply for a licence under this section in respect of a relevant premises and, at the proceedings in relation to the application, the applicant shows to the satisfaction of the Court that a relevant licence is in force in respect of the premises, the Court shall cause a certificate to be granted to the applicant entitling him or her to receive a licence in respect of the relevant premises (in this section referred to as a “producer’s retail licence”), unless the Court prohibits the issuing of the licence on the grounds of—

(a) the character, misconduct or unfitness of the applicant,

(b) the unfitness or inconvenience of the premises, or

(c) the unsuitability of the premises for the needs of persons residing in the neighbourhood.”.

We had much debate on this in committee. We were of the impression that a few things were going to be adjusted in the Bill because the majority agreed with them on Committee Stage. We notice the Government has not gone there just yet so we may argue again.

Amendment No. 1, page 3, lines 10 to 25, is, in a nutshell, trying to get rid of the tour. Truth be told, it is just about impossible to monitor it. The three amendments have been grouped but there is a substantial difference between them. Deputies Clare Daly and Alan Kelly have put forward essentially the same amendment in that they both make the distinction that the necessity of the guided tour should be only for consumption of alcohol on the premises and should not be necessary for off-sales. While I agree with that, if we are engaging in the making of good legislation, we should try to get rid of the tour altogether. I will explain why. As we discussed on Committee Stage, the way the Bill has been amended by the Department works in such a way as to set up a situation whereby small breweries will more than likely not qualify for the ability to give guided tours. On Committee Stage, I stated:

For an applicant to qualify for an off-sales licence, or off and on-sales licences, he or she must show that guided tours can be held on the premises and that the premises is suitable for guided tours in the first place. This automatically rules out a great number of the microbreweries in Ireland from qualifying for these licences. Many microbreweries are packed to the rafters with fermenters, pipework and brewing and packaging materials as many producers start out with small enough kits and, as they see increasing demand, purchase more fermentation and storage vessels until they have no more room to move in their workspaces. These breweries which are doing a lot in a small space, generally due to lack of investment and available funds to expand to bigger premises, are both precisely those who need the help this Bill could offer them financially and, because of the way in which the Government amendments are crafted, those who will not benefit from the Bill.

It is unfortunate that I have to repeat much of what was said on Committee Stage but it is necessary because the Department did not address the concerns we raised at the time and so I am forced to do so. On Committee Stage the majority rejected the idea of a tour for off-sales and agreed with the extension of the hours of the tasting rooms and off-sales to 7 p.m. as opposed to 6 p.m. in order that people could avail of the stated purpose of the legislation. For the life of me I do not understand why the Minister is not able to accept the change to 7 p.m. On Committee Stage a large majority voted in favour of 7 p.m. to avoid the situation whereby overcrowded and unsafe breweries working at capacity must qualify for the facility to give guided tours to have the ability to have off-sales, which is highly unlikely in the first place, and if their premises are deemed suitable for tours they must give a tour for every six-pack of beer sold at the door.

At the very least, all of Deputy Clare Daly's amendments must be accepted. My amendments go a little further and do away with the tour restriction altogether. The notion that someone who would call once a week for a six-pack of craft beer to a local brewery would have to do the tour every time is fairly irrational. Even the Ceann Comhairle agrees with that.

I did not say anything.

Where is the logic in that? People who have not been in a craft brewery will want to do tours but if a person has had the tour, bar a change in the premises, he or she is unlikely to want to have a tour every time he or she goes in looking for a six-pack. The long and the short of it is that we are dancing around issues here for God knows what reason. I presume it is to placate the vintners. It just does not make sense. If we insist on the guided tours, who in God's name is going to monitor them? Who will make sure the tours are done and are done right? Where will the evidence come from? If someone does not do tours, how will the Department deal with the individual who sold a six-pack of beer to a fellow who did not want to do the tour for the umpteenth time? How will the Department monitor that? Let us suppose the Department does come up some sort of censure, will there be an appeal process involved? The Minister is looking for trouble. I do not see clarity in the approach.

The Department has defined the terms of a guided tour in Government amendment No. 13. It must include "an explanation of, or information relating to, the process whereby the intoxicating liquor is manufactured". It must be "carried out in person" and it "requires a ticket to be issued to the person participating in the tour, whether a fee is paid for the ticket or not". A number of problems arise in that regard. Let us say one is a small producer brewing beer and one has a team of probably three people at most doing what is quite intense and physical work. The place will be a bit of a mess. The floor will be wet. It is a normal brew day. There is no time, nor is it safe to give a tour, as described by the Government in amendment No. 13. There is nothing wrong with the description of a tour. It is good to describe these things, but it means that the brewery will by law not be allowed to sell a case or a can of beer for takeaway to anyone who comes to the brewery for the purpose of getting a six-pack. Because of the work that is taking place at that particular time, the brewer is not going to be a position to facilitate a tour. We are being impractical.

On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, could I ask what amendments are under discussion?

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3. Deputy Wallace is speaking to amendment No. 1. I presume he is talking about his own amendment.

I am, yes, and I have not gone off subject. Does the Minister think I have?

No. Thank you for the clarification, a Cheann Comhairle.

I will speak to amendment No. 2. I thank the Minister for his support for the Bill. I also thank the Members who have supported it, especially those who have tabled amendments. Many of the amendments are in the same spirt. My amendments, Deputy Clare Daly's amendments and Deputy Wallace's amendments are in the same spirit. I hope we can get the Bill through the House this week because the Seanad has committed to deal with the Bill next week. The sun is shining and if we can get the Bill enacted, craft brewers will be able to benefit from the legislation in a summer where they can grow their business. There are four craft brewers in my county. I encourage Members to adopt the amendments in that spirit.

I agree with the majority of what Deputy Wallace said. Deputy Clare Daly's amendments and mine are very similar. I drafted the Bill and worked with the Minister's staff, who I compliment and thank for their help, but it did come across from the brewers who were watching Committee Stage that it would be impractical to have to do a tour to buy off-sales. The happy medium I propose in my amendment No. 2, which is linked to amendment No. 6, is that one would have to do a tour to get on-sales. Under the Bill, the brewers are only allowed to sell what they produce. Can one imagine if one was in Spain, Italy or France and one wanted to visit a local vineyard to purchase some wine but one was not able to do it? It is insane - absolutely crazy. This is a very practical Bill which has had the unanimous support of this House politically. The amendment I propose, No. 2, which is linked to amendment No. 6, is to allow for on-sales after a tour and off-sales regardless of whether a tour is taken. It is very similar to Deputy Clare Daly's amendment.

I encourage the Minister to adopt the amendments. To be honest, in the spirit of all the rest of the amendments, I think this is the crucial amendment. I have no issue with the time of 7 p.m. I think it is a good thing. The Minister could possibly link my amendment with Deputy Clare Daly's, as I think they might work, so that we do not have to bring the Bill back from the Seanad with an amendment because we may not have the time for it this summer and I am very conscious of the need to enact the Bill this summer. I encourage the Minister to take this amendment on board, purely on a practical basis.

This is a fledgling industry. It is potentially a great industry. It is located in the four corners of Ireland, in rural areas, towns and cities. There is great culture and heritage involved. Fáilte Ireland is willing to start a marketing campaign for craft breweries as a tourism product. We see people coming into Ireland from central Europe, Germany, California and Florida looking to visit these breweries. I met some tourists even in the past two weeks and they cannot understand why they cannot buy produce. The amendment will allow the spirt of the Bill to be fully kept but it will mean that for many of the reasons Deputy Wallace has outlined, it will allow for off-sales whereby people can come in and buy a modest amount directly from the brewer without having to continuously do tours.

Breweries will not always be in the space where they can have tours, for example, if they are in mass production, which is the case at certain times of the week when they front-load production because they know they will not have visitors, for example, on Mondays and Tuesdays or early in the day. That would allow them to plan and to ensure the space will be suitable for visitors later in the day. I hope the Minister can take on board my amendment. Over the next day or so I hope that between us we can get these couple of amendments through. I do not have much of an issue with the Minister's amendment. I will support the change to 7 p.m. as long as it does not require the Bill to come back from the Seanad.

This is the critical amendment which the House must consider and I hope the Minister will support it. It is the one issue I believe needed further consideration and on which the industry reverted to me after Committee Stage. I had hoped that it would be dealt with through discussions with the Minister's officials but, unfortunately, that was not the case. There may be very valid reasons for that but I hope the House will support the amendment for the spirit in which it is being put forward and its practical nature.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 11.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 5 July 2018.