Taprooms – The elephant in the room.

Or do they?

On Weds 23rd November, out of nowhere, a little members bill from TD Alan Kelly winged it’s way into the Dáil (to the UK folks, think Houses of Commons, and US, The House of Representatives)

Now, to give a bit of context, Ireland, as you may know has been going through a craft beer revolution the last 5 years or so. However, a lot of our alcohol related laws are not really fit for a modern society. Indeed many are still derived from the 1800s.

One of the oddest quirks, was that if you visit a Taproom, or a Brewery you can’t buy the beers at the end of your visit. You’re given samples included with your Tour. But this is a very grey area. It doesn’t end there, it also means that if you wanted to buy beers direct, you have to buy at least 19 litres worth. Otherwise, in order for a brewery to sell you this they’d have to have a publicans licence. Which given the archaic market in Ireland, will set you back anywhere between €50,000 and €100,000.

Madness, there are umpteen sources, and examples of beer tourism, the world over, and even closer to home, Fáilte Ireland have been promoting the brewers on the Wild Atlantic Way (link here) but the nub of it is, technically you can’t buy the beers or a couple to bring home at the end of your tour.

So in steps Alan Kelly, an elected representative from Tipperary, and so the story goes, that he was taking part in a tour of White Gypsy in Templemore, and thought just how ridiculous it was that the tour group couldn’t buy a few bottles to get home. Though i’d like to think that Cuilán might have had a few choice words for him. As a result you can see the press release from the labour website, and the actual bill is here

Firstly, I applaud this bill, and the inevitable discussion this will bring. I’m going to go through the proposed bill now, and highlight the pro’s and cons as to how I see them. It’s also pleasing to see that cideries, and distilleries are being included also.

  1. It appears the bill only deals with people on “Guided Tours” so does this mean, as a member of the public, and you wanted to buy some locally made beer etc you couldn’t unless you had the tour? – This needs clarity in my view.
  2. Can only buy beer, cider, or spirits made on site – This makes sense, but also limits the potential for beer festivals, or encouraged co operation with other brewers etc
  3. Hours of Licence, 10am to 6pm – now, this is a 7 day licence. It’s not consistent with general alcohol licences, or off licence sales. Truly it limits the potential custom during the week, as if people are working they might not be able to make it in time etc. It might make more sense to align these with Off Licence trading hours, or say 9pm, for a happy medium.
  4. Potentially large fines for breaching these terms – selling products outside the above time, or manner they are approved may lead to large fines, and loss of licence.
  5. If the brewery has a previously purchased Off Licence or Publicans Licence this new licence would extinguish the other one so it may not be worth their while to pursue, unless they wish to sell the licence. Although there has been no indicative cost given.
  6. Extended Licence operations – holders of these licence, are precluded from applying for extensions etc for events or exemptions of any kind – which limits the type of events, if any they can run at the site.

So, this could be a great opportunity for local brewers, cider makers and distillers. It gives them a platform, to show off their facility, and benefit from the upturn in alcohol tourism that has been growing around the world. It allows them to make profit from small tours, and potential up-selling of products.

I don’t want to be a negative nelly, but realistically this is a private members bill, from a politician who is a member of one of the smaller parties in parliament. It’s clear this will need cross party support to get across the line.

Clearly compromises like operating times have been selected to keep the publicans happy. Though if they played their cards right they could also benefit from that. It’s a start. Which is more than welcome.

I’m encouraging you to contact your local TD, no matter what party they are and encourage them to support this bill. It means support for local jobs, and the local economy. If and when this goes to vote, it’ll be interesting to see who votes against – given the large number of publicans holding seats – i’d like to think it would lead to a similar rejection of their cartel and business.

You can find your local representatives with their email addresses here



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