Former Environment Minister and Labour TD Alan Kelly is proposing new legislation to remove the regulatory barriers preventing micro-breweries, distilleries and other craft manufacturers of alcohol from retailing their products to visitors on site.

Currently, offering visitors to a manufacturing premises any more than a "taster" of the product, or the offer of any product for retail sale, requires the proprietor of the premises to obtain a Publican's Licence. 

This is a significant undertaking for any business, involving investment of circa. €100,000.00. Firstly, due to the restriction in the licensing legislation prohibiting the creation of "new" Publican's Licences, it is necessary to purchase an existing  licence for extinguishment. These are currently selling for between €65,000.00 - €75,000.00. Secondly, there is the requirement of certainly one, but probably two, legal applications to the Circuit Court to apply for the Publican's Licence. These applications involve notifying not only the local Gardaí but also the Fire  Officer in the local authority of the application, who can become materially involved in the matter. An Architect will also need to be retained to prepare plans of the premises and advise on compliance with planning permission and building regulation. Finally, these applications must be advertised in local newspapers and may be objected to by residents or neighbouring businesses (including other Publican's!) in the locality. the entire process can takes months to complete, or longer if there are any objections to the applications.

The removal of this restriction is good news for the burgeoning industries of craft beer and Irish whiskey, which can surely expand their sphere of influence by tapping into the tourist market.

It will be interesting to see how far Mr Kelly's proposal progresses, given that the Government is currently trying to introduce further regulation on the retail sale of alcohol  via the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which proposes among other things, the minimum unit pricing on the retail sale of alcohol and the structural separation of alcohol products for sale in mixed trading outlets.