Retailers may get two years to unveil rules on display of alcohol
Minister runs rule over proposed measures under new Bill to quarantine drink in shops
Under the new Bill retailers must put alcohol into a separate area in the shop and keep it in a closed storage unit. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
Minister for Health Simon Harris is to consider giving retailers two years to introduce new rules surrounding the display of alcohol.
The Minister is progressing the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which provides for structural separation, through the Oireachtas.
The proposals have been met with significant opposition within his own party and shop owners, who believe it unfairly penalises small retailers.
However, Mr Harris has agreed to examine a number of measures to address the concerns raised.
It is understood retailers will be given 24 months to implement the measures and there may also be further clarification to the visual display rules.
The legislation stresses small shops can keep alcohol products in view but the Bill insists that it must be confined to a maximum of two storage units.
The two units must be placed beside each other and cannot contain anything other than alcohol products.
All other retailers must put alcohol into a separate area in the shop and keep it in a closed storage unit. The product cannot be visible to the customer and must remain closed when not in use, the legislation says.
The clause has given rise to concerns retailers may be faced with disproportionate costs and may have to erect walls or install curtains to hide the drinks.
It is understood Mr Harris is willing to examine a number of other options including the possibility of turnstiles, which would make it more difficult to access alcohol.
The Department of Health officials are to meet with retailers to discuss a number of options and the Minister has agreed to address such measures at a later stage in the Bill.
Mr Harris said he accepted the worries of small shop-owners, insisting the Government was eager not to penalise them.
He added: “I hope that we can now decouple this issue that has been getting muddied up in all of the other issues to do with alcohol and we can sit down with those who represent the retailers and have a discussion on that one item. Let me be clear, because I do not want anyone misinterpreting what I said.
“Visibility is not the be-all and end-all of the legislation but it is an important part. I will engage with the retailers, but as I said at the start of this debate today on committee stage, on the basis that my bottom line is that alcohol will be less visible in our shops.”
The Minister is eager for the Bill to be passed by the end of the year.