Both the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), representing 600 Dublin publicans, and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), representing 4,200 pubs outside the capital, said it made no business sense for pubs to remain closed on one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Chief executive of the LVA, Donall O’Keeffe, said the current law amounted to discrimination against the licensed trade.
“The entire hospitality sector loses out through being closed, 12,000 employees lose out through lost earnings and the exchequer loses out in terms of lost excise and Vat,” he said.
He said it would be “hugely embarrassing” if the law was still in place next year for Easter 2016. “It’s a terrific opportunity to showcase our capital city and it would be ridiculous if the entire hospitality sector was again forced to close on Good Friday. If we want to see ourselves as a modern European republic, we need to have the laws of a modern European republic” Mr O’Keeffe said.
VFI president Noreen O’Sullivan said the pub was voted the number one tourist attraction by Lonely Planet and it was “illogical in this day and age to close our pubs on such a busy weekend”.
She said the law banning alcohol sales “belongs to an era that is well gone”.
Mr O’Keeffe said an estimated quarter of a million people would pass through Dublin Airport this weekend and while a visit to a pub “is often among the highlights of their trip”, once again they would be faced with locked doors on Friday. Despite efforts to open its doors after midnight next Friday, the Blasket Bar in Castle St, Tralee, Co Kerry was refused an application. The owners of the bar had applied for an exemption between 12 midnight and 2am on Saturday, a date described in court as “the night of Good Friday” when all pubs are closed.
When the application was moved at Tralee District Court, Garda Inspector Donal Ashe said “technically” there were no grounds for objecting but the gardaí were objecting as it was the night of Good Friday.
He said gardaí felt the granting of such an exemption would be “completely against the spirit of what was intended” in the legislation. Louis O’Connell, solicitor for applicant George Savage, of the Blasket Bar, said when he lodged the application — along with three other exemption applications for the same bar on various dates in April — gardaí indicated there would not be a problem. The Blasket Bar in the town centre was a very well-known premises, he said, it was a well-run establishment and had just one previous conviction for after hours serving two years ago.
However, District Court Judge James O’Connor said: “The bottom line is this is an exemption for Good Friday night. I am refusing it. It goes against the whole spirit of the legislation.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said yesterday that statutory restrictions on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday, “which have historical origins, will be examined in the context of the forthcoming Sale of Alcohol Bill”. In February, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she would consider lifting the ban but not in time for this year.
According to Alcohol Action Ireland website, alcohol-related harm in Ireland claims three lives a day and costs the State an estimated €3.7bn annually.