Home News Business Strong Laois opposition to ‘unworkable’ proposal on sale of alcohol in supermarkets

Strong Laois opposition to ‘unworkable’ proposal on sale of alcohol in supermarkets

Ann Martin, owner of Centra in Mountrath, at the current alcohol section in her store.

The Laois woman who is national president of the Convenient Stores and Newsagents Association of Ireland (CSNA) says that Government proposals restricting the visibility of alcohol in shops is “completely unworkable” and will lead to job losses and potential closures.

Ann Martin, owner of the Centra supermarket in Mountrath, has hit out strongly at a move that is proposing that all alcohol be “behind closed doors”.

It is something that will effect a number of Laois supermarket owners who sell alcohol.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is re-introducing an Alcohol Bill on structural separation in shops, something which failed to get over the line previously. The bill is being put to the Senate again this week.

In essence it means that supermarkets can only have alcohol visible in a designated section. On a simple level the idea is that there is a clear separation and that children aren’t exposed to alcohol in the shops.

Ann Martin says that it will put a cost of up to €20,000 on businesses like hers to facilitate such changes with increased costs for CCTV, storage, insurance and health and safety. It will also lead to a decrease in the space she has available to display other items.

“We’re very concerned about this,” she said. “Section 20 of this Bill focuses on ‘Mixed Trading Outlets’ like ourselves and says it doesn’t want alcohol ‘readily visible’. The idea is that they don’t want the baby in the buggy to see alcohol.

“But we’re opposed to it for a number of reasons. If you have a scenario where someone is coming home from work and pops in for bread and milk and a pizza and they want to get a couple of cans of beer or a bottle of wine, they are going to have to ask someone to open up this section. It makes it very awkward and it takes away from consumer experience.

“People enjoy examining a bottle of wine or a craft beer and they really don’t want to have someone over their shoulder.

“For us it creates a situation where you would have to pay someone extra to be in there and I can’t do that. This will eventually lead to job losses – jobs that are currently going to students on weekends.

“The thing that is being forgotten too is that we are responsible retailers. I am a responsible retailer. I wouldn’t serve drink to an underage person and I wouldn’t serve a drunk person.

“And it’s not a level playing pitch. An off licence has no restriction on what they can do – they can have pictures of Santa drinking from a bottle. It’s also easier for the likes of Tesco to give over a section of their store. That isn’t an option for the smaller retailers.”

John Leahy, leader of Renua Ireland, has said that while the bulk of the Bill is worthy and to be commended, it goes too far.

“Much of the issues at stake around structural separation are already comprehensively addressed in the Code of Practice adopted by the sector under the Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland,” he said.

“This thoroughly deals with matters such as the display, advertising and sale of alcohol as well as staff training and proof of age provisions.

“The government now intend to force already compliant small retailers to spend tens of thousands of euros to ostensibly fix a problem they are already voluntarily solving.

“The previous proposals on structural separation would do grave harm to small shops which are in many cases front line defenders in small communities against excessive and underage alcohol abuse.

“They would have seriously damaged the capacity of small shops to continue in many embattled communities.”

Ann Martin, owner of Centra in Mountrath, at the current alcohol section in her store.

Uner proposed new rules, how you access alcohol in a supermarket will be changed considerably