Whiskey manufacturers have claimed new restrictions on alcohol advertising will severely impact the tourism offering of distillery visitor centres.
According to the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA), there are 13 whiskey distillery visitor centres across the country, with plans for an additional 13 centres to open in the coming years.
Last year, there were 814,000 visitors to the centres, an 11% increase on the previous year.
The association wants “last minute” changes to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill as the legislation, currently proposed would see free-standing directional or way-marking signage containing the name of a distillery or alcohol brand banned from display at any bus or Luas stop, or within 200m of any boundary of a school or early-years’ facility.
Advocates of the bill, such as Alcohol Action Ireland, say it is designed to tackle the country’s harmful relationship with alcohol by aiming to reduce the damage to society by reducing consumption, with a particular focus on protecting children and young people from alcohol harm.
However, he said the legislation had not been properly scrutinised and accused the Government of refusing to engage with the industry.
“Some of the measures included in the Alcohol Bill are excessive, impractical, disproportionate and in some cases, just ludicrous,” said Mr Lavelle. “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 hometown.
The association also criticised the impact the proposed advertising restrictions would have on competitiveness and the viability of small Irish distilleries.
“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,” said Mr Lavelle.