The Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2008

On 4 June 2008, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern TD, published the Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2008 (“the Bill”), which will affect both retailers who operate full off-licences and those with wine off-licences only. Through changes in the application process the reforms will also affect any retailers who do not yet hold licences but who intend to apply. So what does it all mean?



1 October 2008

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One of the main proposed changes is the restriction on off-sales of alcohol to the period between 10:30am and 10:00pm from Monday to Saturday, and between 12:30pm and  10:00pm on any Sunday and Saint Patrick’s Day. The sale of alcohol for consumption off the premises is therefore prohibited after the hour of 10:00pm on any given day. This provision obviously has notable ramifications for any off-licence premises, as it reduces the permitted hours for the sale of alcohol at night-time. 

Furthermore, convenience stores and supermarkets currently benefit from the mixed-trading provision whereby they can start selling alcohol at 7:30am from Monday to Saturday. That provision is being repealed whereby no off-licence premises, including mixed–trading premises, will be allowed sell alcohol before 10:30am from Monday to Saturday. The permitted time at which one can commence selling alcohol on a Sunday will continue to be 12:30pm.

2. Wine Off-Licence

Currently, a retailer can obtain a wine off-licence by applying to the Revenue Commissioners. The Bill proposes that applications for wine off-licences will have to be processed through the District Court instead. The proofs required will be similar to those that already apply in an application for a spirit and beer off-licence.

This means that the court will consider the character, conduct and fitness of the applicant and the fitness and convenience of the premises. Further grounds the Court may consider will be the suitability of the premises for the needs of the local residents and the number of existing licensed premises (with wine off-licences) in the area. The latter ground is commonly known as the demand ground, in that an applicant may be required to show that there is sufficient demand for another licence of this type in the area. A Judge could refuse the application on any one of the above grounds.

This would bring the grounds for refusing a new wine off-licence in line with those that are already in place in respect of new spirit and beer off-licences. Objectors will also be able to object on any of the above grounds and competent objectors are the local Garda Superintendent and/or neighbourhood residents.

3. Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)

Under the Bill, the District Court will be allowed to impose conditions concerning CCTV when granting a certificate for any new off-licence, be it for wine, spirits or beer. The Court will be able to require an applicant to install, use and operate a CCTV system in a manner it deems necessary. Any failure by the applicant to adhere to the Court’s conditions regarding CCTV shall adversely affect the character of the applicant when it comes to the annual renewal of the licence.

4. Display and sale of alcohol

Section 8 of the Bill provides for the structural separation of alcohol products from other products in supermarkets, convenience stores, petrol stations and any other licensed premises which is deemed to be mixed-trading. It should be noted that this provision will not apply to specialist off-licences, unless they sell such a wide range of ancillary products so as to be deemed to be mixed-trading.  

Under section 8 of the Bill, no later than one year after the commencement of the section, mixed-trading premises will be obliged to do one of the following:

(i)    Display and sell all intoxicating liquor in an area of the premises which is structurally separated from the remainder of the premises by means of a wall or similar barrier, which customers can access only by means of a door, gate, turnstile or similar means of access.There must also be a designated member of staff and a cash     register within this separate area at which the point of sale occurs, and alcohol cannot be sold in any other part of the store.
(ii)    As the above may only be feasible in larger stores, there is an alternative option which entails placing all alcoholic beverages behind a secure counter. The sale of alcohol will have to take place at this counter, and self-service by the customer will be prohibited. Following representations from interested parties, it appears that the Minister intends to table an amendment at Committee Stage to exempt wine from this requirement, whereby customers will be able to browse wine before making a purchase.  

5. Penalties for infringements

Retailers who fail to comply with their obligations regarding the display and sale of alcohol, set out above, will be guilty of an offence. The penalties for such offences will range from a fine not exceeding *3,000 on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding *100,000 on conviction on indictment. In addition, for each day on which the offence continues a further fine of up to *2,000 per day (summary conviction) may be imposed.

6. “Test purchasing” by minors

There is also provision in the Bill for test purchasing by minors. This is to assist Gardai in their enforcement of the laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to persons under the age of 18. Under this scheme, members of the Gardai will be authorised to send persons who are at least 15 but under 18 into stores to attempt to purchase alcohol. This will in essence enable Gardai to carry out spot-checks to ensure that licenced premises do not sell alcohol to minors, and to punish those licence-holders who do sell to minors. 

7. Temporary closure orders

Temporary closure orders are made by the District Court on the conviction of licensees for certain licensing offences, such as the sale of alcohol to a person under 18, or permitting drunkenness or disorderly conduct to take place on the premises. Under the current law, for a first such offence, there is no minimum closure period. Under the Bill, there will be a minimum two-day closure period for a first offence to which a temporary closure order attaches.

8. Price reductions and promotions

Section 15 of the Bill provides for the future making of regulations which may prohibit or restrict the advertising, promoting, selling or supplying of alcohol at reduced prices. In this context, allowing a customer to use loyalty points to contribute towards the purchase price of alcohol would constitute the supply of alcohol at a reduced price. The Minister may therefore make regulations in the future to prohibit such practices.
The Minister is to have regard to public order and health risks in making such regulations and this section allows for fines of up to *5,000 on summary conviction and up to *100,000 on conviction on indictment, for offences under any such Regulations.

© Matheson Ormsby Prentice 2008
The information in this article is not intended to provide, and does not constitute, legal or any other advice on any particular matter, and is provided for general information purposes only.
This legal update is compiled by Lorraine Compton and Darragh McElligott from the Retail and Leisure Group of leading corporate law firm, Matheson Ormsby Prentice. The firm’s Retail and Leisure Group comprises lawyers who provide a one-stop shop designed to cater for every aspect of the retail and leisure business.

For more detailed legal advice please contact Lorraine Compton or Darragh McElligott at Matheson Ormsby Prentice, Solicitors, 70 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2, by telephone on 01 232 2000 or by email at or

Further information on the firm is available at



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