Ireland: ‘A separate place for alcohol will ruin our business’

Mark Willingham Uncategorized

Ireland: ‘A separate place for alcohol will ruin our business’

 

A range of retailers believe new rules the sale of drinks will only succeed in damaging trade

 

Source: Irish Times

Oct 26, 2016

 

From small convenience stores to bespoke shops selling highly regarded wines, the regulations governing the sale of alcohol envisaged in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill are viewed with a mixture of suspicion and dread.

 

“It is going to change us completely,” says Gary Morton of Ranelagh in Dublin. “If you have a separate place for alcohol, segregated from the food, it will ruin our business.”

 

The Bill was debated yesterday in the Senate. If enacted into law, retailers of alcohol (mixed trade outlets, not off-licences) will have to separate beer, wine and spirits from all other products on sale in their premises.

 

A designated area with its own entrance in which alcohol products may be displayed will have to be created, though it will have to be screened in such a way that, standing outside, one will not be able to see what is on sale inside.

 

For the high-end retailer, now in operation on Dunville Avenue for 82 years, the implications are stark. For owner Gary Morton, the whole point of his shop is to offer food and wine together.

Food and drink

 

“For us, it’s about the combination and we are very proud of how we present our food and wine,” he says.

 

So, instead of browsing, selecting some meat, fish or cheese and a wine to complement the food as a holistic exercise, customers of Mortons, and similar high-end retailers which have proliferated in recent years, may have to buy their food and wine separately, in separate parts of the shop that are staffed separately which, in Gary Morton’s view, will only serve to irritate customers . . . as well as forcing him to redesign the layout of his shop.

 

Similar, though less drastic challenges, face other outlets.

 

Hidden goods

 

In O’Hara’s Spar on Vernon Avenue in Clontarf, there are five shelves of wine towards the rear of the store, stacked with bottles ranging from ?8.99 to ?19.99. In line with the voluntary code of the Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland (RRAI), no other products that might encourage alcohol buying – crisps, dips and suchlike – are on sale beside the display.

 

Under the proposed new law, O’Hara’s will likely have to hang plain, wardrobe-like doors on the front of the shelves, screening their contents from public view. It will not be permitted to advertise on the doors what lies behind them, other than to state, with words such as “beer” and “wine”, what is on the shelves.

 

Paul Kelly, who manages the shop and sells perhaps 200 bottles of wine a week, notes that the thriving O’Brien’s off-licence across the road faces no new curbs under the proposed law. He queries the practicalities of the change.

 

At Collins’s Centra in Howth village, staff, who declined to be named, were unsure as to how, in practical terms, they could comply with the proposals.

Policy and codes

 

The shop has a double bay of five shelves of wine and, beside it, a large fridge filled with white wine, sparkling wine and, a growing favourite, craft beers. Stacked on the floor in front of the fridge are boxes of beer.

 

On display also are several notices explaining RRAI policy and codes.

 

Alcohol sales account for about 18 per cent of Collins’s trade, and creating a separate alcohol section, with its own staff and till, simply isn’t practical, according to one senior member of staff. Concealing drink behind blank screens doesn’t seem like a business-friendly idea either.

 

“Any change that restricts customers making a purchase is going to damage business,” he says.

 

Gary Morton agrees there is a societal problem with alcohol and that the Department of Health is the right one to take the lead role is trying to reduce consumption. Pricing is the key, he suggests. “Responsible retailing of alcohol does not include below-cost selling,” he says.