By Aisling Carr, Solicitor, Leisure and Licensing
On the 25th of March 2010 at Limerick District Court, Judge Tom O’Donnell granted an application brought on behalf of the publicans of Limerick City to open their doors to sell alcohol to the public on Good Friday 2010. It was estimated that the Munster v. Leinster rugby match would be worth €7.3 million to Limerick City if the pubs were permitted to open and this landmark decision protected much needed revenue for the area.
Many people are of the belief that this is a sign of changing times and an indication that Irish society is becoming increasingly secular in nature, however the piece of legislation that facilitated this application was enacted in 1962, well over forty years ago.
Ordinarily the sale or consumption of intoxicating liquor on a licensed premises is prohibited on Good Friday and Christmas Day, however, Section 10 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1962 makes provision for the granting of what is known as an “area exemption order” in respect of licensed premises situated in any locality outside the county borough of Dublin.
What is an Area Exemption Order
An area exemption order exempts the holders of licence’s in the particular area towhich the order relates, from the provisions of the Licensing Acts relating to prohibited hours of trade. In respect of the publicans’ Good Friday application the order permitted Limerick’s publicans to sell alcohol on a day which would otherwise be considered a prohibited day of trading under the Licensing Acts. An area exemption order can only be granted if there is a special event taking place in the area which will attract a large number of people to the locality and the approval of the majority of license holders in the area has been obtained. The State objected to the application for the area exemption order on the grounds that the Magners League, Munster V. Leinster match was not a “special event” but Judge O’Donnell ruled otherwise and was satisfied that all the statutory requirements had been met by the applicant, Mr. Jerry O’Dea, publican and Chairman of Limerick Vintner’s Federation.
The decision to grant an area exemption order on Good Friday was truly a landmark event. However, it may come as a surprise to many that this is not the first time that alcohol has been legally served in Limerick City on Good Friday. Registered Clubs such as registered golf, rugby and tennis clubs may apply to the District Court for an Authorisation to supply alcohol to members of their club for a period during which the supply of alcohol would normally be prohibited by the rules of the club. There is no restriction in respect of any particular day and so registered clubs can and have in the past obtained Club Authorisation’s in respect of Good Friday.
The Beginning of the End of Good Friday
It remains to be seen whether this recent decision will bring about legislative reform which would lift the ban on Ireland’s two remaining “dry” days in the year. For some, Ireland’s licensing laws are outdated and restrictive and it is felt that as members of the European Union our laws should be changed to come in line with European Law. For others, the ban is considered to be of cultural, historic and religious importance and should not be abolished. The debate is sure to continue and one can only wait and see if this landmark decision will have far reaching consequences for licensing law in Ireland.
Aisling Carr is a solicitor in the Litigation Department of Holmes O’Malley Sexton and advises clients on all aspects of Licensing Law. Aisling can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 061 313222