The Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) condemned the annual ban on alcohol, saying that the law is unacceptable at such a busy time for the tourism, restaurant, and hospitality industry.
RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins said the “archaic” law presented a 19th- century view of Ireland that is so far out of touch it is not even observed by the Vatican City.
“Ireland must be the only country in the world that has a bank holiday weekend and actually chooses to close the tourist attractions it is best known for — the centres of craic and ceol — the restaurants and pubs of the country. Even the Vatican City doesn’t obey this ridiculous law.”
He said the rule forced many restaurants to close on Good Friday, losing out on some €15m in business.
“This law affects more than just the diners who want a drink.
“It affects thousands of restaurant employees on a busy weekend when restaurants simply won’t open. It is unacceptable to have this archaic ban in place on religious grounds, especially in the multicultural and multi-religious society that Ireland has become.”
Mr Cummins said that in 2009, Judge Mary Fahy said prosecuting restaurants that offered wine with meals on Good Friday was “ludicrous”. During a hearing in Galway District Court, she decided not to record convictions against nine restaurants that had done this.
Mr Cummins said that restaurateurs were frustrated as other premises, such as greyhound stadiums, were granted licenses to serve alcohol on Good Friday.
The legislation provides other exemptions — allowing the sale of alcohol to those travelling by sea, rail, air, or ferry. People can be sold alcohol while attending a licensed theatre, a national cultural institution, or as guests staying in licensed premises, such as a hotel, as long as it is with a meal.
“These businesses are working the law and using it to their advantage — why shouldn’t restaurants?,” said Mr Cummins. “It’s tough for all businesses relying on customers to part with their well-earned cash on a long weekend. They cannot afford to open without serving alcohol, and they definitely cannot afford to close either.”
The RAI criticisms follow calls earlier this week by both the Licensed Vintners Association, representing 600 Dublin publicans, and the Vintners Federation of Ireland, representing 4,200 pubs outside the capital, who said it made no business sense for pubs to remain closed on one of the busiest weekends of the year.
The Department of Justice said legislation banning alcohol on Good Friday had “historical origins” and would be examined in 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, alcohol-related harm in Ireland claims three lives a day and costs the State an estimated €3.7bn annually.