In 2017, visitor numbers to Irish whiskey distilleries grew to 814,000, an 11% increase year-on-year. There are currently 13 whiskey distillery visitor centres across the country with plans for an additional 13 visitor centres to open in the coming years.
But under the current Bill, due before the Dail this Autumn, free-standing directional or way-marking signage containing the name of a distillery or alcohol brand would be banned from display at any Luas or bus-stop or within 200 metres of any boundary of a school or early-years facility.
“The Irish whiskey industry supports the objectives of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill,” commented the Head of the Irish Whiskey Association William Lavelle on the proposed restrictions, “It is in our industry’s long-term interest to promote sustainable and responsible levels of alcohol consumption in Ireland. This is happening already, as alcohol consumption has declined by over 23% since 2001 according to CSO and Revenue Commissioners data.
“However, some of the measures included in the Alcohol Bill are excessive, impractical, disproportionate and in some cases, just ludicrous,” he continued, “Irish whiskey distilleries attracted 814,000 paying visitors last year, over 90% of whom were overseas tourists. They play an integral part of Ireland’s tourism offering, particularly in parts of the country with a less well-established tourism footfall. Yet the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will severely contain the advertising and promotion of Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres.”
William Lavelle continued, “It is ludicrous to think that at a time when the Irish Government is promoting Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, the Tullamore Dew visitor centre won’t be allowed to erect named signs in their home town.
“Equally concerning is the fact that the four existing or planned distilleries in Dublin’s Liberties will not be permitted to display signage to differentiate each other and direct tourists to each distillery.
“This is what happens when legislation isn’t properly scrutinised or when Government refuse to engage with industry. Other parts of this Bill haven’t even been subjected to regulatory impact assessment.”
The Irish Whiskey Association also criticised the impact the proposed advertising restrictions would have on competitiveness and the viability of small Irish whiskey distilleries.
“The Irish whiskey industry is a diverse one,” he pointed out, “We have major distilleries driving export growth but we also have smaller distilleries helping to spur-on exciting competition and innovation in the domestic markets, something which consumers have embraced.
“The majority of members of the Irish Whiskey Association are SMEs based in rural communities across the country. These companies employ local people, buy from local farmers and attract tourists to their locality.
“Small distilleries and innovative new brands will lose out the most if advertising restrictions come in as they will struggle to compete with more established brands. The advertising of spirits is already banned on television. The draconian restrictions to outdoor advertising and promotion provided for in this Bill are an unnecessary step too far. They are anti-competitive, they will stifle innovation, they will limit consumer choice and they will put jobs at risk.
“We are calling for a small number of reasonable amendments to protect the Irish whiskey tourism sector and small distillers around Ireland. It’s not too late to get this right.”
The IWA forms part of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland.