Ireland has seen a huge increase in breweries and distilleries over the last decade. High end Gin, high end Whisky and craft beer all dominate our off-licence and supermarket shelves. Despite the apparent popularity however, small distilleries and breweries still struggle. While they get to produce the final product, often tight squeezing from large multi-national retailers and off-licences can see margins compressed to a minimum.

However a potential lifeline has been thrown to these operators in the form of the Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries & Distilleries) Act 2018. Under this Act, brewers and distillers, subject to certain criteria, will be able to sell alcohol from their brewery or distillery premises to members of the public. No mistake should be made however that this is a new form of pub licence. It is not. The criteria and guidelines are strict and must be adhered to.

The Act
The Act is known as the Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries & Distilleries) Act 2018 and was signed by the President on the 22nd July 2018 and came into Law on the 3rd of September 2018. 

The Act does not apply to pubs and retail outlets and is specifically aimed at the following:

  • Breweries (of beer for sale)
  • Distillers of Spirits
  • Makers of Cider for sale
  • Makers of Perry for sale
  • Rectifiers or Compounders of Spirits
  • Makers for sale of sweets

What Can Be Sold?
Providing the seller is covered under the list above and provided the seller is the holder of a relevant manufacturers licence then it will (subject to being granted a new licence) be permitted to sell its product from its brewery, distillery etc. There is one important caveat however. It is only the product manufactured by the seller that can be sold. For example, if a craft brewer is to sell his or her beer at his brewery they will not be permitted to offer a range of other alcoholic products for people who do not drink beer. The licence/certificate will be specific to the alcoholic product produced. 

The Catch

There is one big caveat contained in this new provision. The product (whether it be gin, whisky, beer etc.) may only be sold to people who have completed a guided tour of the retailer’s facility (brewery, distillery etc.). It would therefore not be possible to enter the property for the specific purpose of purchasing alcohol.

In addition to the foregoing, the visitor who completes the guided tour of the premises shall only be permitted to purchase alcohol between the hours of 10:00am and 7:00pm each day of the week. There is no provision for a holder of such a licence to obtain a special exemption order (allowing a later sale of alcohol).

What is a guided tour?

The Act defines a “Guided tour as a tour that

  • Includes an explanation of or information relating to the process whereby the product is produced in accordance with the relevant licence
  • Is carried out in person (whether the tour is guided by another person or not)
  • Requires a ticket (whether a fee is paid for the ticket or not)

Other factors
Other factors that will be required to be adhered to include:

  • Regulated opening times (Contained within the Act)
  • Adherence to Public Order Laws
  • Compliance with the Law in general
  • The product can only be sold from the “Relevant premises” The relevant premises is the premises to which the licence is attached
  • Requirement for tax clearance

Obtaining Your Licence
As stated above, you will need to be on the list of approved producers of alcohol in order to obtain a licence (The holder or a necessary relevant manufacturer’s licence). The application process will depend on whether the retailer wishes to sell licence on the premises or for consumption off the premises (on sale or off-licence).

Once the manufacturer of alcohol holds an appropriate manufacturer’s licence they will be able to apply for a new retail licence (producers retail licence).

Once the manufacturer holds the manufacturers retail licence they will be permitted to sell alcohol from their premises to those people who have completed a guided tour of that premises.

There will be two types of Licence. A licence for the sale of the product for consumption off the premises and one for consumption of the product on the premises.

1.  Alcohol for consumption off the premises only
If the alcohol manufacturer wishes to sell alcohol to anyone who would have completed the guided tour for consumption off the premises only, then that manufacturer must apply to the District Court for the appropriate permission to do so.
2.  Consumption of alcohol on or off the premises
Probably the more popular option for manufacturers will be the licence which permits not only the sale of alcohol for consumption off the premises but also for alcohol consumption on the premises. Again this is restricted to persons who have completed a guided tour and the Court application required will be a Circuit Court application.

One of the proofs for a Circuit Court application of this nature will be for the manufacturer to be able to demonstrate to the Court that it has put in place adequate mechanisms to ensure that only people who have completed a guided tour can avail of on-site consumption of alcohol. For example, the old “IKEA” trick in which somebody has to follow a guided route in order to get to the location that sells alcohol etc.

Once the applicant has succeeded in obtaining the relevant Certificate from the Courts, they will then apply directly to the Revenue Commissioners for a new producer’s retail licence. The excise cost of this licence will be €500.

The other requirements will be the same as the general Intoxicating Liquor Acts in that the applying party must be tax compliant. In addition and once the relevant licence is granted it will have the effect of extinguishing any other licence attaching to that premises (other than a relevant licence)

While there will be certain hoops to jump through and while a decision will need to be made as to whether a manufacturer wishes to simply sell its product for consumption off site or whether it wishes to also avail of the on-site permission, it is good news for the industry. This type of licence should not be confused as permission to own some form of pub or shebeen. It is a recognition however of the industry and its uniqueness. The general punter purchasing craft beer tends to be somebody who enjoys not just the beer but the back story and evolution of the product. Allowing that particular person to enjoy the product from its original production point is an extra dimension that will provide further economic opportunities for brewers and distillers alike. Needless to say, it offers a new tourism possibility also.

The application is relatively straightforward (so long as the applicant is fully decided on what type of licence they require). Clarke Jeffers & Co. specialise in the food and beverage industry and are uniquely positioned to advise and pursue such Court applications for its clients. We have a strong insight into the brewing and distilling industry and would be more than happy to address any queries that you might have.

If you would like to discuss your own particular situation, please do not hesitate to get in touch for an free, initial consultation