The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has welcomed the upcoming reform and modernisation of the licensing laws, saying an overhaul was “long overdue”. They also outlined the importance of ensuring any new licensing system was fair and balanced and did not place disproportionate responsibilities on pubs while allowing for other venues to serve late night alcohol under looser conditions.
As part of the reforms, the LVA will be seeking to have late night trading hours extended to 5am, seven nights a week. They will also be pressing for a 50% reduction in the costs of late night licenses.
Currently each individual late night licence includes a Government charge of €410 per day, in the form of a Special Exemption Order, as well as legal fees. For venues seeking to operate late night for five nights a week, that can amount to additional Government charges of €8,200 per month.
All late night licensing charges must also be paid upfront, which is a significant cost for businesses who have not traded in 18 months. The LVA has called on the Government to waive these charges for the first six months after they resume business to assist their recovery. The 300+ late night venues, who employ approximately 5,000 staff, will have been kept closed for 585 days by 22 October, the date they are expected to reopen.
The LVA also cautioned that for the new licensing system to be a level playing field, then all venues should have to face the same requirements around planning, health and safety, fire safety, security and public liability.
“This reform of the licensing system is long overdue,” said Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA. “The current system is archaic, bureaucratic and expensive. For many years now the LVA has been arguing that there is no reason that a modern, vibrant city like Dublin can’t have a proper late night economy. Permitting trading to run to 5am will facilitate a much more staggered approach when it comes to people going home, instead of the majority of the public all being pushed out on to the streets at the same time.
“We also believe that the current system of securing late night licenses is disproportionately expensive and we will be seeking a 50% cut in those Government charges as part of this process. Having to pay €410 per night, plus legal fees, for an additional two hours trading as permitted under the current system, simply isn’t justified. This would also allow smaller venues to compete in the late night trade as they cannot justify the current costs. The majority of late bar operators would opt to trade to 2.30am under this approach.
“It is also essential that any licensing reforms maintain a level playing field. You can’t have a system in place where it is possible to take a short cut around existing licensing requirements, such as those involving planning, fire safety, health and safety, public liability, and security. There can’t be heavy restrictions placed on the pub sector while other venues can skirt around them or don’t implement them.
“The negative experience with theatre licences previously, shows the potential for abuse. The unintended consequences of that system previously was that it created significant issues around unfair competition and for policing. We can’t have any new licensing regime that creates those same problems.
“We are looking forward to engaging with the Government on these issues and the publication of the Nighttime Economy Taskforce report. Hopefully these reforms will allow for our night time activity to modernise, ensuring Ireland’s famous night life is not limited to closing times which have no real bearing on a country with a 21st Century outlook,” Mr. O’Keeffe concluded.