Shops ac­cuse Gov­ern­ment of ig­nor­ing cost con­cerns in bill

Irish Examiner - - News - Joe Leogue and Fi­achra Ó’Cion­naith

An or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sent­ing con­ve­nience stores and newsagents has accused the Gov­ern­ment of ig­nor­ing its mem­bers’ con­cerns about the cost of im­ple­ment­ing pro­posed leg­is­la­tion on the sale of al­co­hol.

The Con­ve­nience Stores & Newsagents As­so­ci­a­tion of Ire­land (CSNA) said pro­pos­als within the Public Health Al­co­hol Bill that would re­quire re­tail­ers to seg­re­gate al­co­hol prod­ucts from the rest of their stores will im­pose a sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial bur­den on smaller stores.

The bill stip­u­lates re­tail­ers sell­ing al­co­hol must do so in an area “which is sep­a­rated from the re­main­der of the premises by means of a phys­i­cal bar­rier” to which cus­tomers do not have to pass through to ac­cess other non-al­co­hol prod­ucts. It also pro­poses al­co­hol prod­ucts and ad­ver­tise­ments for al­co­hol prod­ucts would not be “read­ily vis­i­ble to mem­bers of the public from out­side the area”.

How­ever, the CSNA says the rules will re­quire sig­nif­i­cant re­fits to some stores, bring­ing with it huge costs.

The CSNA of­fered the Ir­ish Ex­am­iner a quote one of its mem­bers re­ceived from a store fit­ter, who quoted €48,118.50 to re­fit 24 dis­play bays of wine, beer, and spir­its.

CSNA chief ex­ec­u­tive Vin­cent Jen­nings said it be­lieves re­tail­ers be­low a cer­tain size or turnover should be ex­empt from the de­mands, in­sist­ing the Gov­ern­ment has yet to pro­vide ev­i­dence the mea­sures will lead to any re­duc­tion in al­co­hol abuse.

“Why push an in­dus­try that is hard pressed into some­thing if you don’t know and can’t quan­tify what the ef­fect will be, and are not able to demon­strate the ben­e­fits?” Mr Jen­nings asked.

He said while re­tail­ers and their rep­re­sen­ta­tive bodies made sub­mis­sions in ad­vance of the pub­li­ca­tion of the leg­is­la­tion, no such groups were in­vited to oral hear­ings on the pro­posed bill.

How­ever a spokesper­son for the Depart­ment of Health said Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris “has stated his in­ten­tion to re­flect those con­cerns in amend­ments that he will bring for­ward to the bill.”

Mean­while, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter and un­aligned In­de­pen­dent TD De­nis Naugh­ten yes­ter­day re­jected claims the new al­co­hol bill could po­ten­tially force small shops to close, de­spite qual­i­fy­ing his own sup­port for the bill.

The Roscom­mon TD said while the planned law change would put a fi­nan­cial bur­den on small shops, he stated: “I don’t think it would put them out of busi­ness.”

Mr Naugh­ten said he agreed with Mr Har­ris that “there are very se­ri­ous public health con­cerns in re­la­tion to al­co­hol” and stated he was “as con­scious on those as any­one else”.

How­ever, asked if he was fully sup­port­ive of the bill now that Mr Har­ris has said he will amend the small shops is­sues and seek to have it passed into law by Hal­loween.

He added: “Ev­ery­one in Le­in­ster House, I think, is sup­port­ive of the bill, and all of us ac­knowl­edge we have a huge prob­lem with al­co­hol in this coun­try.

“There are is­sues with the bill it­self. I haven’t seen the de­tail of the amend­ment Si­mon is propos­ing and that may very well re­solve those is­sues, but what is im­por­tant is that the leg­is­la­tion that is brought in [firstly] meets its in­ten­tions and [se­condly] that it’s prac­ti­cal and fea­si­ble to ac­tu­ally im­ple­ment it.

“There have been pro­pos­als in the past that haven’t been prac­ti­cal or fea­si­ble. I think the move Si­mon is mak­ing to this is pos­i­tive and prob­a­bly ad­dresses this, but I haven’t seen the de­tail of it.”

De­nis Naugh­ten: Bill won’t put shops out of busi­ness.

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