Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016: Committee and Remaining Stages

SECTION 1
Government amendment No. 1:
In page 3, lines 16 and 17, to delete ", for consumption on the premises,".

The purpose of this amendment is to address a potential difficulty arising from an amendment carried in respect of section 1(1)(b). I will briefly refer to the background. The Bill originally provided for the granting of a retail licence to craft breweries and distilleries that would permit them to sell intoxicating liquor produced on their premises to tourists and visitors who had participated in a guided tour of the premises. Both on-sales and off-sales would be permitted. In all cases sales would be restricted to intoxicating liquor produced on the premises and only to those who had participated in a guided tour of the brewery or distillery concerned. This Bill still provides two application options. An applicant may apply to the Circuit Court for an on-licence, that is, a licence permitting consumption on the premises, or to the District Court where the applicant has no facilities for consumption on the premises and intends instead to sell only for consumption off the premises.

During discussions in committee it was suggested by Deputies that licensees should also be permitted to engage in off-sales to persons other than those who had participated in guided tours of the premises, and an Opposition Report Stage amendment to that effect was carried. My concern and the concern of the Government was such that a widening of the Bill's scope would create a new form of off-licence that could lead to abuses and could also lead to potentially unfair competition from other off-licences such as the specialist off-licence sector.

The Opposition amendment inserted the words "for consumption on the premises" in section 1(1)(b). The intention was to restrict the guided tour requirement and not apply it in the case of off-sales to those who had not participated in a guided tour of the premises. While the revised wording appeared to achieve the desired objective, dropping the guided tour requirement in the case of off-sales, the Attorney General's office has identified a potential difficulty arising from the revised text of subsection(1)(b). A literal interpretation of the revised text suggests that a craft brewery or distillery intending to apply for an off-licence, which may be obtained from the District Court, must nonetheless satisfy the court that a mechanism is in place that permits sales for consumption on the premises only to those who have completed the guided tour of the premises. Clearly, that was not the intention of those who proposed the amendment since it would create an insuperable obstacle to applications for an off-licence.

The Attorney General's office has advised that the words "for consumption on the premises" be removed from subsection (1)(b), and that is the purpose of this amendment. I am assured that the removal of these words will in no way restrict the possibility of off-sales to those who have not participated in a guided tour of the premises because subsection (6)(b) now makes specific provision for such off-sales.

I assure the Senators that my purpose in tabling this amendment is not to frustrate in any way the objective of the Opposition amendment to permit off-sales to those who have not participated in a guided tour but rather to remove a potential obstacle to the operation of the licensing mechanism. In this regard, I commend the amendment to the House.

Senator Bacik wishes to make a brief comment.

I thank the Minister for his explanation. I have spoken to Deputy Alan Kelly, as the sponsor of the Bill, and I know there is no difficulty with this amendment or the other one given that they do not change the spirit - if I may use that term - of the Bill, as passed by the Dáil.

I missed Second Stage and wish to comment briefly on the Minister's introduction of the amendment. As was acknowledged by the Minister, I commend Deputy Kelly on his stewardship of the Bill. As the Leader of this House, I advise it is important to get this legislation passed and enacted as quickly as possible. It will benefit local economies, support local entrepreneurs who provide employment, create an alternative to conglomerates, and ensure that Irish craft beer is able to be produced, marketed and sold. As the Minister eloquently pointed out, it testifies to the growing diversity in our country, and I commend the Bill to the House.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 2:
In page 4, to delete lines 7 to 20 and substitute the following:
“(6) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2018, a licence issued or renewed under this section shall operate to authorise the sale on the premises to which the licence is attached of intoxicating liquor manufactured in accordance with a relevant licence on the premises—
(a) between the hours of 10.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m. each day other than Christmas Day, for consumption on or off the premises, to persons who have completed a guided tour of the premises, where the certificate referred to in subsection (1) has been granted by the Circuit Court,
(b) between the hours of 10.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m. each day other than Christmas Day, for consumption off the premises, to persons who have completed a guided tour of the premises, where the certificate referred to in subsection (1) has been granted by the District Court, or
(c) between the hours of—
(i) 10.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m. each day other than Christmas Day or a day to which subparagraph (ii) applies, and
(ii) 12.30 p.m. and 7.00 p.m. on a Sunday, other than a Christmas Day which falls on a Sunday, and St. Patrick’s Day,
for consumption off the premises, to persons who have not completed a guided tour of the premises, where the certificate referred to in subsection (1) has been granted by the Circuit Court or the District Court.”.

I refer to section 1(6), as amended in the Dáil on Report Stage. This will permit off-sales to those who have not participated in a guided tour of the premises between the hours of 10. a.m. and 7 p.m. on every day of the year except Christmas Day. This is in conflict with the licensing hours applicable to all other off-licences. Under current licensing law, public houses and off-licences are not permitted to sell intoxicating liquor before 12.30 p.m. on Sundays or St. Patrick's Day.

The Attorney General's office has advised that allowing craft breweries and distilleries to engage in off-sales to those who have not participated in a guided tour of the premises before 12.30 p.m. on Sundays and St. Patrick's Day under this legislation would give rise to an anomaly. It would create a risk of legal challenge on the basis that it seems to favour craft breweries and distilleries over other categories of off-licences. For this reason, I have tabled an amendment to section 1(6). To prohibit off-sales in the absence of a guided tour before 12.30 p.m. on Sundays and St. Patrick's Day, off-sales to those who have participated in a guided tour of the premises will continue to be permitted from 10 a.m.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 1, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I am aware there is provision for accepting oral amendments. I suggest that the words "aged 18 years and upwards" be inserted after the word "persons" in section 1(6)(a) and (b).

On a point of order, because of the Minister's amendment No. 2, it is now paragraphs (a), (b) and (c).

And paragraph (c).

Yes, I will have a look at that. I acknowledge the point Senator McDowell has raised. I refer to my earlier reply when I said that the provisions of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988 as regards persons, with particular reference to persons who may be regarded as under-age or minors, or persons under the age of 18, will apply to this section. If the Senator requires further clarity by way of belt and braces, I acknowledge that point, although I am satisfied.

It is the subsection commencing "Notwithstanding anything".

That is as far as the hours are concerned.

Notwithstanding anything contained in the Acts, a licence issued or renewed shall authorise to operate between the hours of 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. I am referring specifically to the hours of trading rather than the type of person that may be referred to.

I wonder if this is what the Minister is referring to because it seems to me that subsection (6) is the authority to sell on the premises, notwithstanding the provisions of the licensing Acts. It would be improved by putting in those three qualifications.

I will look at that, notwithstanding what I have said regarding the application of the hours.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 2 to 5, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Hold on a second. If we do not make this amendment it will go back to the Dáil for amendment. Does it then have to come back to the Seanad again?

It seems to me that we could avoid a second visit to this House before the summer if the amendment was accepted.

I acknowledge Senator Bacik's comments that we are very keen to have this legislation enacted in its entirety so that it may have early application. I do no often speak on behalf of Deputy Kelly but on his behalf I can say that he too is very keen to see this enacted in its entirety, having regard to the fact that the Bill has been the subject matter of what some might describe as a delay in the context of the very tight Dáil and Seanad schedule recently. Should Senator McDowell's point present a problem, we can reflect on how best to deal with it. In the meantime I ask Senators to conclude their duty this afternoon.

There may be another vehicle through which Senator McDowell's issue can be rectified.

Bill reported with amendment, received for final consideration and passed.