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New Alcohol bill will force shops to hide drink

New Alcohol bill will force shops to hide drink

The retail sector faces a €100m bill if a proposed law requiring shops to keep alcohol out of sight of shoppers is passed.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is due to be debated by the Seanad on Wednesday. In a letter sent to senators ahead of the debate, business group Retail Ireland warns that if the Bill is passed it would cost even small shopkeepers as much as €50,000 each to comply.

The measure is "disproportionate" and "overly burdensome" for the sector, the letter seen by the Irish Independent said.

If passed in its current form it will seriously threaten the recovery in the Irish retail sector, it said.

Retailers' fears relate to a requirement in the bill that alcohol must be "not readily visible" to shoppers.

Legal advice obtained by Retail Ireland is that the clause would force large outlets to install seven-foot internal barriers to keep drink out of sight, while smaller operators will have to build closed and blacked-out storage units to prevent drink products being seen. The new cabinets will not be allowed to adjoin shelves with other products.

Retail Ireland director Thomas Burke said the requirement to black-out all alcohol would mean over-hauling thousands of shops at huge cost.

"The proposed separation requirements will in most cases oblige retailers to physically move fire doors and emergency exits in order to comply with health and safety regulations. Such changes will require planning permission and further certification from various regulatory bodies," he wrote in the letter to senators.

"Retail Ireland members take the issue of alcohol retailing very seriously and understand the responsibilities attached with retailing a controlled product such as alcohol."

But, he said, the provision in the Bill could have huge negative consequences for the sector.