Cut in trading hours catches Irish retailers by surprise

08 August, 2008

National Off-licence Association says new laws were imposed at short notice

Graham Holter

Irish drinks retailers now face tougher restrictions on the way they operate thanks to new laws which came into force last week.

Off-licences may now only sell drinks between 10.30am and 10pm on weekdays, and from 12.30pm till 10pm on Sundays.

The legislation - which also gives police greater powers to seize alcohol where they fear public disorder, and allows test purchasing - was also intended to force supermarkets and convenience stores to display alcohol in a partitioned-off section of the premises.

But the Irish government has put the plans on ice while it waits for a voluntary industry code to emerge.

Retailers who sell alcohol to children will face tougher penalties and stores will be banned from using incentives such as loyalty card points to encourage consumer spending.

The new legislation also allows retailers to apply to the courts for a wine-only off-licence.

Ireland's National Off-licence Association has expressed concern that the changes to opening hours were introduced at short notice.

Chairman Jim McCabe said: "Our members around the country are telling us that their customers do not realise that the new earlier closing time

came into effect before the end of July and members themselves are surprised .†

"When the new legislation was introduced the Minister for Justice Equality & Law Reform insisted that mixed retailers who sell alcohol should agree to abide by a code of practice in recognition of the recommendations of the Alcohol Advisory Group, some of which are adopted in the new licensing laws.

"The code of practice is to address issues such as the structural segregation of areas within supermarkets and mixed trade outlets . It was expected that the new trading hours would have been brought into effect at the same time as the proposed code of practice and the fact that this is not happening has caused a substantial degree of confusion."

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