The Convenience Stores & Newsagents Association of Ireland (CSNA) said proposals within the Public Health Alcohol Bill that would require retailers to segregate alcohol products from the rest of their stores will impose a significant financial burden on smaller stores.
The bill stipulates retailers selling alcohol must do so in an area “which is separated from the remainder of the premises by means of a physical barrier” to which customers do not have to pass through to access other non-alcohol products. It also proposes alcohol products and advertisements for alcohol products would not be “readily visible to members of the public from outside the area”.
However, the CSNA says the rules will require significant refits to some stores, bringing with it huge costs.
The CSNA offered thea quote one of its members received from a store fitter, who quoted €48,118.50 to refit 24 display bays of wine, beer, and spirits.
CSNA chief executive Vincent Jennings said it believes retailers below a certain size or turnover should be exempt from the demands, insisting the Government has yet to provide evidence the measures will lead to any reduction in alcohol abuse.
“Why push an industry that is hard pressed into something if you don’t know and can’t quantify what the effect will be, and are not able to demonstrate the benefits?” Mr Jennings asked.
He said while retailers and their representative bodies made submissions in advance of the publication of the legislation, no such groups were invited to oral hearings on the proposed bill.
However a spokesperson for the Department of Health said Health Minister Simon Harris “has stated his intention to reflect those concerns in amendments that he will bring forward to the bill.”
Meanwhile, Communications Minister and unaligned Independent TD Denis Naughten yesterday rejected claims the new alcohol bill could potentially force small shops to close, despite qualifying his own support for the bill.
The Roscommon TD said while the planned law change would put a financial burden on small shops, he stated: “I don’t think it would put them out of business.”
Mr Naughten said he agreed with Mr Harris that “there are very serious public health concerns in relation to alcohol” and stated he was “as conscious on those as anyone else”.
However, asked if he was fully supportive of the bill now that Mr Harris has said he will amend the small shops issues and seek to have it passed into law by Halloween.
He added: “Everyone in Leinster House, I think, is supportive of the bill, and all of us acknowledge we have a huge problem with alcohol in this country.
“There are issues with the bill itself. I haven’t seen the detail of the amendment Simon is proposing and that may very well resolve those issues, but what is important is that the legislation that is brought in [firstly] meets its intentions and [secondly] that it’s practical and feasible to actually implement it.
“There have been proposals in the past that haven’t been practical or feasible. I think the move Simon is making to this is positive and probably addresses this, but I haven’t seen the detail of it.”