Publicans that oppose the liberalisation of pub licensing laws are doing so to protect business owners, an Oireachtas hearing discussing the Sale of Alcohol Bill has heard.
Independent senator, Lynn Ruane, told the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) and the Licensed Vintners' Association (LVA) that their objection to removing supply constraints through the extinguishment provision was not listening to the changing trends of the country.
Speaking at the hearing, Ms Ruane said that while people had a right to protect their livelihoods, the conversation was "led very much by protecting the business owner, and not listening to the changing nature of the country".
The senator also noted a lack of diversity in the industry, adding that the "traditional Irish pub" the VFI and LVA were protecting was not necessarily for a new Ireland.
The new legislation aims to modernise the country's patchwork of laws governing alcohol sales in pubs, restaurants, and off-licences, some of which date back more than 200 years.
Alcohol licences will be allowed for museums and galleries, while pubs will be permitted to stay open for longer and nightclubs allowed to stay open until 6am.
The proposed bill would also remove the extinguishment provision, a rule whereby a new operator cannot enter the pub trade without first acquiring an existing licence, controlling the market supply of overall pubs.
The VFI and LVA have both voiced harsh criticism of the removal of the provision, warning that without it, rural pubs would be put at severe risk of dying off.
"Adding to the number of outlets in city centres, which is where new licenses will go, is not a welcome development," said Donall O’Keeffe of the LVA.
"I don't believe we want a UK pub culture in our cities, and we have a strong pub culture in this country due to our strong licence regime. Deregulation would be a disaster for our city centres."
Both the LVA and VFI also argued that Ireland was already "over-pubbed," with Mr O'Keeffe warning that the liberalisation of pub licensing laws would wipe the value of rural pubs overnight.
"Removing this provision puts the future livelihood of existing pubs at risk," CEO of the VFI, Paul Clancy, added.
"Existing pubs will suffer as a result of increases in supply in what is already an oversaturated market."
A similar sentiment was echoed by Independent TD, Danny Healy Rae, who said he was "totally opposed" to the provision's removal, telling the Oireachtas: "If people want to sell alcohol, they should have a licence to do it and not get it by any other means."
"It is unfair to publicans that regulate their alcohol sales and act as a hub for their community. Extinguishment must be included in this bill."