The trade could see a storm brewing up over moves to allow craft breweries and distilleries sell their product in-house at the end of guided tours.
This year’s VFI Conference in Athlone ended with a plea to management to continue opposing the Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016 permitting the on-premise sale of alcohol to consumers completing a brewery or distillery tour.
“We sell their beers in our establishments, but every pint drank in their breweries is a pint less for us,” pointed out one aggrieved speaker.
“Obtaining such a brewery licence is not hard” stated one speaker in advocating that amendments to the Bill should make obtaining these licences prohibitive.
Others believed brewers & distillers should apply for a 7-Day Publican’s Licence like anyone else if they want to sell their product.
In fairness VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben pointed out that the Federation set about tackling this as soon as the implications became apparent and has had a number of discussions with the government party of the day – but they don’t seem against it either.
The reality is that as soon as Minister Alan Kelly initiated it the Bill found broad political support from all parties, so despite all the Federation’s hard work it may be largely unsuccessful in stopping the Bill going through.
But it took VFI President Pat Crotty to put the tackety boots on. He threatened that as most craft beer is sold by publicans, “…. if the brewers end up stepping on our corns, we’ll step on theirs”.
At the end of the day the Bill includes safeguards restricting sales from 10am to 6pm and provides fines for owners selling alcohol not produced on site. And unlike public houses there’s a clause preventing exemptions and/or extensions to opening hours.
Who’d police any restrictions contained in the Bill, delegates wondered?
Good question. Who polices the pubs at present?
The granting of such a facility for microbreweries and distilleries would make a real difference to consumers who’d like to taste what’s still fresh in their minds. If pubs want to be seen to be part of the tourism drive, they shouldn’t be dog-in-the manger about this minor irritant.
For when you look at the volume concerned compared to that sold nationally by pubs, as my father used to say when a fly would land on my pint and I’d fruitlessly attempt to chase it off, “… for all he’d have drunk on you….”.