This was pointed out by Lorraine Compton of Compton Solicitors, one of the panellists on the recent ‘Reset & Recover’ session at the Restaurant Association of Ireland’s virtual trade show Hospitality & Tourism Expo.
Her firm is very much to the forefront of liquor licensing for hotels, pubs, restaurants, supermarkets and off-licences around the country.
Holders of a Wine Retailers On-Licence or Wine Retailers Off-Licence may only sell wine-based cocktails off the premises and Special Restaurant Licence-holders are not permitted to conduct any takeaway alcohol sales.
While SRL-holders can sell all cocktails for consumption on the premises before, during or after food, ordinary Restaurant Licence holders with a Wine Retailer’s On Licence can only sell wine-based cocktails, both on and off the premises.
This restriction on selling cocktails off the premises remains despite the fact that those seeking a SRL must also pay some €3,805 in Excise Duty as part of their Court application, she pointed out.
“Maybe the Government might look at that in terms of making it more affordable for a period of time so that some of the restaurants who can’t afford that Excise Duty could get into the cocktails market,” she suggested.
A free helpline is available via the RAI to help audit anybody with an ordinary restaurant licence to establish what may have to be done to apply for a special Restaurant Licence and any other liquor licensing queries.
Covid & planning permission
Compton Solicitors has many restaurant clients who want to continue to offer takeaways even when out of Lockdown and who’ve put huge investment into this but she pointed out that there could be a problem with Planning Permission in the future.
On the 29th of March 2020, Amendments to The Planning and Development Regulations provided for temporary changes of use from restaurant to take-away for a specified period in the context of the current emergency.
Without this temporary exemption, many restaurants may be precluded by a condition of their planning permission which prevents them from operating a take-away service to sell food and drinks for consumption off the premises.
This temporary exemption remains in effect as long as Part 3 of the Health Act 2020 remains in effect, which has been extended until the 9th of June 2021.
“I think it’s time that we have to reimagine the planning laws, not just the licensing laws,” she stated, “This is something that has to be looked at very seriously and quickly because there is no way it should be allowed lapse. Otherwise, when we’re all out of Lockdown, restaurants who’ve built all these takeaway businesses would not be allowed continue their takeaway offering in addition to their eat-in trade.
“As a result, there’s a need to modernise planning laws relating to the food/drinks services industry in general,” she continued, “There’s a case to be made by the hospitality industry that the planning laws have not kept pace with the developments of the catering industry which is now recognised as an essential provider of hot food off the premises with delivery to people’s homes generally between 5pm and 10pm in the evening.”
Online and takeaway sales
Not all alcohol licences permit the sale of alcohol as part of the takeaway offering including online sales. The type of alcohol that you can offer for sale and whether you can sell it on or off the premises is dependent on the type of licence you hold, she concluded.
Lorraine’s practice was also getting about three calls a day in relation to online alcohol sales.
For this, there’s only one type of licence that’s suitable, she said, “It’s the one attached to a premises such as a pub or off-licence that can sell online to consumers in the same way that one can pick up the phone to place an alcohol order”.
However she pointed out that those selling online carry the same responsibility as anyone selling from a licensed premises in terms of underage sales etc.
This type of retailer is subject to the exact same penalties if ID, for example, is not sought, which could lead to a Closure Order.
The Night-time industry has been campaigning for years to get better recognition, Lorrain Compton pointed out.
If this doesn’t happen and happen soon, how can we compete and get our tourists back, she asked.
The present route to late opening was “tortuous” with the need for a Special Exemption Order and Stamp Duty costing €410 a night just to get opening to 2.30am.
“We’re promised that this is going to be looked at, but I really hope that this happens and happens fast because I cannot think of another city where you cannot do anything at night-time.”
A Practical Guide to Reopening and Operating Your Hospitality Businesses is currently under revision by Compton Solicitors and will be available shortly.