The primary difficulty seems to be that the CSNA cannot envisage a scenario where shopfitters could possibly carry out the significant changes involved in compliance with the forthcoming legislation whilst at the same time observing physical distancing as required in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It makes practical sense from a timeline point-of-view,” CSNA Chief Executive Vincent Jennings told Drinks Industry Ireland, “If you have to get shopfitters to carry out structural separation in 3,000 outlets around the country then by the time that we all have the freedom of having people walk into our store before the end of September and to comply with this legislation, it would be an absolutely horrendous situation,”
A meeting had been scheduled between the CSNA, the Depart of Health and officials from the Environmental Health Service to discuss implementation of the structural separation requirements but these plans were interrupted by the onset of the Coronavirus crisis.
Vincent Jennings sought clear indications from government about this.
“All other matters relating to the Public Health Alcohol Bill are not reliant on structural separation and we have to be sensible about this,” he said, adding that, “A lot of other government departments have had to ameliorate things as a result of this outbreak. Different government departments have had to change the way they expect their ‘customer base’ to change.”
The CSNA is very aware that there are “very real additional risks to customers, staff and suppliers if retail stores carry out works that would be in contravention of the fire, health and safety and building regulations”.
The Association has received an acknowledgement from the Minister’s office and hopes to share its concerns with the Department once it gets a rescheduled date.
“It’s our job to bring these things to the attention of the minister,” Vincent Jennings told Drinks Industry Ireland, “It’s going to be really really difficult if these social distancing requirements are still in place and it’s not in anyone’s interest to be in contravention of the law.”
In the meantime the Association has advised members that it cannot recommend they proceed with modifications to their store.