Licensed Vintners Association want Government to call time on Good Friday pub closures

LVA chief executive Donall O'Keeffe VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben. Pic: Johnny Bambury/Fennell Photography

Publicans have renewed the fight to get pubs opened on Good Friday, claiming the ban on the sale of drink is archaic.

Vintners are asking the Government once again to open bars and hope to use the precedent for a rugby match in Limerick to cash in on the Republic of Ireland soccer international in Dublin on March 25.

However, with an election looming there are only weeks left to amend laws to allow drink to be served on one of only two days in the year when pubs traditionally keep their doors closed. The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said reversing the ban should be a no-brainer.

LVA chief executive Donall O’Keeffe said they had legal advice which suggested it would be a straightforward reform which would have to be passed by the Oireachtas.

“Every Good Friday, we have thousands of tourists wandering around the streets of our cities and towns asking why they can’t go into a pub for a drink,” he said.

“Those numbers will be boosted this year because of the Easter 2016 celebrations. We are also going to have up to 50,000 soccer fans in Dublin facing the same problem outside the stadium.”

While fans inside the Aviva stadium for the Good Friday match can have a drink, the pubs on the streets around the ground will be shut.

Licensed Vintners Association want Government to call time on Good Friday pub closures

Other well-rehearsed options for people seeking to get out for a drink on the holy day are going to Harold’s Cross greyhounds, travelling by train, taking a ferry out of the country, and checking in a for a flight at the airport.

The vintners said they have been lobbying Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald since 2014 but nothing has been done.

“It would be ridiculous if the entire hospitality sector was again forced to close on Good Friday 2016 because of a law passed in 1927,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

The VFI claimed the State loses out on €6m in tax with the Good Friday ban.

VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben said: “The Government previously indicated that Good Friday trading would be permitted in the context of the Sale of Alcohol Bill but so far nothing has happened. Most other retail businesses are open and trading, so why is the licensed trade being treated differently?

“We know many consumers have a drink at home on Good Friday but they should have the option to go out for one if they so choose. For example this year there are hundreds of thousands of fans around the country who may well want to watch the soccer match on television in their local pubs.”

The ban is enforced under the Intoxicating Liquor Act which was introduced 89 years ago.

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