Many Publicans are unsure of the requirements of the liquor licencing laws in Ireland, which is not surprising when there is so much information relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol on a premises owned by yourself.
Before you can sell, supply and consume intoxicating liquor, the law requires you have an Intoxicating Liquor Licence. The licence is obtained by way of an application to the Circuit Court and the Revenue Commissioners will issue your Intoxicating Liquor Licence once the Court has granted the licence.
Intoxicating liquor is defined as spirits, beers (including porters & stouts), wines, ciders and homemade wine and any other fermented, distilled or spirituous liquor.
General Licencing Considerations & Offences
Tax Clearance Certificates: The Finance Acts require applicants for certain liquor licences to have a tax clearance certificate. The liquor licences affected by this are: spirit retailers licence (publican, hotel and special restaurant licence); off-licences; wine retailers on-licence.
Prohibition of the Sale of Intoxicating Liquor to Persons under 18 years: It is an offence for the holder of any licence for the sale of intoxicating liquor to anyone under 18 years of age, to sell to anyone under 18 years for consumption on the premises, to permit anyone to supply anyone under 18 years, and to sell to anyone under 18 years for consumption outside of the premises.
Children on Licenced Premises: For licencing purposes a child is defined as a person under the age of 15 years. Children are prohibited from being on licenced premises unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. A notice must be displayed to this effect on the premises. The exceptions are if the child is a child of the licence holder, a resident in the licenced premises (e.g. as a guest in the hotel) or in the bar of a licenced premises solely for the purpose of passing through to gain access to another part of the premises.
Employment of Persons under the age of 18 years on Licenced Premises: It is an offence for the holder of a licence to employ any person under the age of 18 years, with the exception of
a close female and male relation (e.g. sister/brother/son/daughter & in-laws) who is resident with the licence holder and is over 16 years
a person who is an apprentice to the licence holder and is over 16 years.
Sale of a licence: A licence cannot be ‘sold’ in the ordinary sense of the word. A licence holder who no longer wishes to trade can transfer as the discretion of the Court, the licence to the new owner or can extinguish the licence to facilitate for a new licence.
Intoxicated Persons on the Premises: The licencee is entitled not to admit any person who is drunk, violent or disorderly and is required by law to refuse to sell intoxicating liquor to any drunken person. Furthermore it is an offence to sell to a sober person for use by himself and a drunken companion.
The National Alcohol Policy aims to reduce the prevalence of alcohol-related problems through an emphasis on moderation in alcohol consumption. The provision of professional training is seen as an important part of the policy. Enquire about Failte Ireland’s “Responsible Serving of Alcohol” Programme.
Sale of Liquor on Credit: It is an offence to sell intoxicating liquor on credit, however liquor may be ordered and consumed with a meal and paid for at the same time as the meal.
Endorsement and Forfeiture of the Licence: In cases where convictions carry endorsements rules regarding the length of time for retention applies (e.g. one endorsement remains on the licence for 2 years, two endorsements remain for 4 years and a third/subsequent endorsement remains for 6 years). When a licence is ordered to be forfeited by the Court, having had 3 endorsements, it is important to stress that no licence can ever afterwards be obtained in respect of the premises to which the licence applied.
Public Order: The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 2003 enables a member of the Garda Siochána to obtain an order, from the District Court, prohibiting persons convicted of certain offences from licenced and catering premises. The Act also gives the Gardai the power to apply to have the premises closed if there has been disorder on the premises, loud noise or if it is likely to recur. Therefore it is in the interest of all proprietors and managers to ensure customers leave the premises in an orderly fashion and with as little noise as possible, having awareness to neighbours living in the area.
Combating Drug Abuse: The Licencing (Combating Drug Abuse) Act, 1997 imposes severe penalties on licence holders who are convicted of a drug trafficking offence or of allowing the sale, supply or distribution of drugs on premises for which they are a licence holder. It is vital staff (direct employees and contracted security/door staff) are trained in these matters and are aware of the signs of drug use and abuse.
SPECIAL PURPOSE LICENSES, CERTIFICATES & ORDERS
1. Publican’s Licence (also known as a Spirits Retailers On-Licence):
This can be Ordinary, Six-Day or Early Closing licence, and allows a publican to sell, during permitted opening hours, liquor which is to be consumed on or off the premises. Publicans’ opening hours are defined under the liquor licensing regulations.
A public house also serving food must register with the Health Service Executive. However, as the pub is effectively also a restaurant in the same premises, the serving of intoxicating liquor is covered by its publican’s licence.
Application for new publican’s licence: The Intoxicating Liquor Acts define the circumstances under which a new licence may be applied for, such as the following (permitted time spans within which to act should be checked with a solicitor):
A new licence for premises where there was never a full licence before. This involves extinguishing, with the consent of its holder, an existing full licence (which can be located anywhere in the country).
Transfer a licence from an old licensed premises to a more suitable one in the immediate vicinity of the licence being extinguished (but only in a rural area), where an existing premises has burnt down or has been destroyed or demolished, provided the new premises are to be in the immediate vicinity of the licence being extinguished
If licenced premises are to be demolished by the local authority, or disposed of under a compulsory purchase order, then the local authority will certify a suitable new site for the transfer of the existing licence
If premises had been licensed within the previous five years but the licence was let lapse (perhaps due to lack of tax clearance or the publican may not have been trading), application can be made to revive that licence
If there are premises adjoining or attached (e.g. an extension) to the licensed premises, a new licence can be sought to cover the adjoining/attached premises.
Documents required in Circuit Court:
Evidence of compliance with Planning laws and Safety, Health, Welfare at Work laws,
if you are intending serving Food ,then you will have to ensure that your premises meet the requirements of the HSE (www.fsai.ie),
Fire Certificate (premises compliance with Fire Regulations)
Certificate of Incorporation or Certificate of Registration of Business Name, if required.
For a renewal of a liquor licence, the following is required:
Apply to Revenue Commissioners for tax clearance certificate before 1 June of the current licencing year.
Apply for renewal of Intoxicating Liquor Licence to the Collector of Customs and Excise in June as it expires each year on 30th September
Notify Fire Authority; they will inspect, to ensure that premises comply with Fire Regulations.
Appropriate excise duty fee (amount determined by annual turnover (current minimum payment is €254.00)
Certificate of Registration of Business Name or Certificate of Incorporation (if required)
Renewed licence must be taken up within six months.
Objections to publican’s licences: A Person/s that is affected is entitled to appear in Court and object to an application for a new publican’s licence or renewal of an existing one.
Where there are fire safety issues at the premises, and where there has been a failure to comply with Fire Officers’ directions, the Fire Authority can object to the renewal of a licence.
Upon the renewal of your licence each year, there is no need to make a Court application unless there is an objection to your licence. For example, if the Gardai objected on the grounds that your premises were not being run in a peaceable and orderly manner, then you will have to apply to the sittings of the Annual Licensing District Court for the renewal of the licence and deal with the concerns of the objectors.
A hotel is defined for licencing purposes as a “house containing at least 10 or, if situated in a county borough, at least 20 apartments and used exclusively for the sleeping accommodation of travellers, and having no public bar for the sale of intoxicating liquor”. It follows therefore that a hotel licence only exists for as long as the premises functions as a hotel.
Generally speaking, Hotels operate under a publican’s licence (also known as a spirit retailer’s on-licence). There are provisions attached to licences granted to hotels before and after the Licencing (Ireland) Act 1902 – hotels still affected by those early laws should refer to their legal advisers for further details.
There is a requirement in law for a hotel to be registered in the Register of Hotels maintained by Fáilte Ireland. In certain circumstances, the hotel is obliged to produce its Fáilte Ireland Certificate before the liquor licence is renewed.
Hotel proprietors should refer to the Intoxicating Liquor Acts for guidance on permitted trading hours for serving and consumption of liquor on the premises.
All restaurants are obliged to register with the Health Services Executive, as mentioned under the section “Food Regulations”. To serve intoxicating liquor in addition to the food, a licence or certificate is also required.
Special Restaurant Licence: If a restaurant wants to serve intoxicating liquor, a Special Restaurant Licence is required.
The Intoxicating Liquor Act defines a restaurant as a premises that is structurally adapted and used for the purpose of supplying substantial meals to the public for consumption on the premises and in which any other business carried on is ancillary and subsidiary to the provision of meals. The serving/consumption of liquor must form part of the meal service. The permitted hours of trading under a Special Restaurant Licence are defined in the legislation.
Prior to an application to the Circuit Court for this licence, the premises must satisfy the requirements of the Health Authorities under Food Legislation and must be registered under the Food/Hygiene regulations. It should also be noted that this licence does not permit the sale of intoxicating liquor for consumption off the premises, nor does it permit applications for special exemption orders (e.g. licence extensions for special occasions).
Restaurant Certificate: This is distinct from the above special licence and is granted by the District Court. The benefit of a restaurant certificate is that a restaurant is able to serve intoxicating liquor with meals at certain times after normal licencing hours and can apply for special exemption orders (e.g. late-night extensions for special occasions).
A restaurant certificate is granted in respect of a premises to which a publican’s licence (entitled to sell wine, beer, cider and spirits) or a wine retailer’s on-licence attaches (entitled to sell wine and beer with a meal), as long as the as the premises is structurally adapted as a place for serving substantial meals to the public.
The holders of a special restaurant licence and hotels do not require a restaurant certificate.
In recent years, when applying for a Restaurant Certificate, the Courts have requested accountants report showing that the principal turnover of the business is from food and not from drink. If the premises only have a wine retailer’s on-licence, then the Restaurant Certificate will only apply to wine being served and not the full range of intoxicating liquor.
Limited Restaurant Certificate: This certificate permits the holder to serve intoxicating liquor with meals in a specially nominated part of the licenced premises, set aside for the provision of meals, as if the area were a restaurant. However this area in the premises must not contain a public bar, nor must there be public access to it through a public bar (separate entrance must be provided).
4. Entertainment/ Nightclubs:
In law there is no such thing as a nightclub licence. The nightclub owner must have an intoxicating liquor licence, public dancing licence and special exemption order before he/she is in a position to serve intoxicating liquor after the permitted hours. Application for a special exemption order is made to the District Court and, if granted, intoxicating liquor can be served up to 2.30a.m. The application is dependent on having a public dance licence and Intoxicating Liquor Licence in place (includes publicans, hoteliers and holders of wine retailer’s on-licence but excludes the holders of a Special Restaurant Licence) and if of course there are no objections to the application by the Gardaί, Fire Officer, Local Authority or any affected person.
These comprise a beer retailer’s off-licence (requiring Court application), a spirit retailer’s off-licence (requires Court application) and a wine retailer’s off-licence (apply to Revenue Commissioners at www.revenue.ie) All off-licences expire on September 30 of each year.
6. Wine Retailers On-Licence
Wine Retailer’s On-Licence is granted by the Revenue Commissioners to a person who owns a refreshment house, permitting the holder to sell fine wine, sherry and any fermented liquor that is less than 23 per cent volume of proof spirit. Refreshments Houses (Ireland) Act, 1860 as amended and Finance Act 1998.
A “refreshment house” is defined as “all houses, rooms, shops or buildings open to for public refreshment, resort and entertainment” and where refreshments are served for consumption on the premises between the hours of 10pm and 5am (e.g. a night café, or fish & chip shop with eating facilities). The refreshment house can serve this type of liquor during normal licencing / business hours before 10pm also.
The licence expires on the 30th September each year and one should apply to Revenue Commissioners for a tax clearance certificate. Once that has been issued, you then apply for your wine licence accompanied by tax clearance certificate, the appropriate excise duty, details of your name and address, and description and location of the house for which you are seeking the licence. The Revenue Commissioners will forward a copy of the relevant forms to the Garda Sίochána and the District Court Clerk in your area and, if there is no objection, the wine retailer’s on–licence will issue.
Special Exemption Order (Special Occasions)
A special exemption order may be applied for by the holder of an on-licence (but not by the holder of a special restaurant licence) for premises that are a hotel, restaurant, etc to permit the licence holder to be exempt from normal licencing hours to the extent as specified by the District Court Judge. An example of this would be the holding of a special event which is organised for the entertainment of a group/association/organisation or the holding of a dance for a special day of festivities in a local area.
All the information detailed above is intended as a guide and any person acting upon any of the information given is advised to take professional advice before entering into any legal agreements or parting with any monies.
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