How to keep your Liquor Licence healthy

This article gives practical advice on how to ensure that your liquor licence remains healthy.  Whether it is simply a wine on-licence, off-licence, full off-licence or a restaurant certificate, a liquor licence can be a huge asset to a business, but if you are not aware of your legal obligations and do not take precautions in a number of key areas, you could risk losing your licence.

What Are The Greatest Health Hazards For Any Licence?

  • Failure to renew your licence promptly each year
  • Underage sales
  • Selling during prohibited hours

Why Is It So Important to Renew Your Licence Promptly Each Year?

All retail liquor licences expire on 30 September each year and must be renewed by the Revenue Commissioners. Restaurant Certificates (to sell wine and beer in your restaurant) involves the renewal of the wine licence through Customs and Excise and the Certificate to sell beer through a court application during the annual licensing courts in September/October each year.

Licence holders can often be slow off the mark to renew their licences however, you should be aware that this involves the risk of prosecution for trading without a licence after the expiry of your existing licence each September.  Furthermore it should be noted that the Revenue Commissioners can only renew a licence if a licence was in force for the previous licensing year.  If you failed to take out a licence for the previous licensing year you must apply to the courts to have the licence revived. This is a costly business which gives objectors a chance to come into Court so great care should be taken to renew licences promptly every year.

Taking out a licence half way through the licensing year does not retrospectively authorise the sale of alcohol from the beginning of the licensing year. If however you apply for your tax clearance certificate at least four months before 30 September and a tax clearance certificate simply has not yet issued or been refused by 30 September your licence will continue in force pending issue or refusal of the tax clearance certificate.  This will also be the case where you were refused a tax clearance certificate and your appeal against refusal has been made in accordance with Section 1094(7) of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997.  In those circumstances your licence continues in force pending the final hearing of the appeal.  These provisions only apply where the amount of duty that would be payable on the granting of the licence is duly deposited with Customs and Excise.

Trading without a licence is an offence under Section 7 of the Intoxicating Liquor (General) Act 1924.  It is a particularly serious offence as if you are convicted of it a second or subsequent time your licence could be forfeited. This could happen if you fail to renew your licence promptly. The Gardaí could call to your premises on two or more occasions to see if you have renewed your licence. If you didn’t renew it this could result in a prosecution for trading without a licence on two separate occasions which if convictions were imposed could mean forfeiture.

What Do I Need To Renew My Licence?

The Revenue Commissioners will require the following:

  • Tax Clearance Certificate (or a Tax Clearance Certificate reference number) in the name of the holder of the licence.  Where the applicant for renewal is a limited liability company the application must be accompanied by a Certificate of Incorporation of the company issued by the Registrar of Companies not earlier than four weeks before the date of application for renewal.  Duplicate certificates can be downloaded from the website of the Companies’ Registration Office.
  • If you are carrying on business under a trade name that is not the same as the company or the individual holding the licence, your application must be accompanied by a Certificate of Registration of Business Name under the Registration of Business Names Act, 1963.  Again, duplicate certificates can be downloaded from the website of the Companies’ Registration Office.
  • The appropriate amount of Excise Duty.


Sale To Underage Drinkers

Section 31 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1988 (as amended) makes it an offence for the holder of a licence to sell or permit sale to anyone under 18 years. Prior to the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000 it was a defence to a charge of selling to underage persons to show that in a particular case it was reasonable to think that a person was over 18. This defence no longer exists.  Furthermore the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000 introduced the concept of “temporary closure orders” where licence-holders are convicted of selling alcohol to underage persons.  The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 has also increased the fines for such offences, with a potential fine of up to € 3,000 for a first offence and up to € 5,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

What Is A Temporary Closure Order? 

If you are convicted of either selling or permitting sale to underage persons a Court must make a temporary closure order in addition to any fine or endorsement.  The order is made for the closure of the premises or a part of it for a period of (a) at least two days and up to seven days for a first offence and (b) between seven and thirty days for a second or subsequent offence.

What Is The Effect Of A Temporary Closure Order On Your premises?

Your premises is considered not to be licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor during the period of closure.  A notice must be placed in a conspicuous place on the exterior of the premises stating the period of closure and also stating that the closure is in compliance with a Court Order. You are required to honour your commitments to any employees working in the premises during the period. The Act specifically states that no employee can be disadvantaged in his/her employment by reason of the Order during the period of closure. This means in practice that even though the premises will not be trading, your employees must be paid.  It should be noted that employee means anyone working under a contract of employment or as a regular part-time employee as defined by law.

How Can I Guard Against Committing This Type Of Offence?

The only effective way of doing this is by investing heavily in staff training as you are only as good as your weakest link. A list of guidelines for the service of alcohol to customers should be prepared, circulated and explained to staff.

In preparing guidelines for staff the following key points should be stressed:

  • Nobody under 18 can themselves sell alcohol.
  • The legal age for purchase of alcohol is 18. Only photographic proof of age must be taken. If in any doubt do not take chances.   Let the duty manager make the call if unsure.  Only Garda National Age Cards, Passports, Driving Licences, and EU Member State National Identity Cards should be accepted and they should be examined to ensure they are genuine.  Furthermore, customers should be asked for this proof each time they make a purchase.
  • If the customer cannot produce photographic proof of age or the photographic proof does not look genuine, the sale should be refused.
  • Where a licensed premises is used exclusively or mainly for the sale of alcohol or a particular part of the premises is structurally separated for the sale of alcohol, no person under 18 may be allowed in (or into the particular separated part) for any purpose unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  • It is illegal to sell alcohol to people who are drunk.

What Are The Permitted Hours of Trading For Restaurants?

Full details of the permitted hours for restaurants are set out in the table below.  It is important to note that the hours specified below only apply to a licensed business (i.e. the sale of alcohol).  The premises can be opened for non-licensed trade at any time.

Alcohol can only be sold in the restaurant where it is consumed at the same time as a meal and with a meal and is paid for at the same time as the meal is paid for.

When Can Alcohol Be Sold?

Monday, Tues, Wednesday and Thursday:
10.30.a.m to 10.00.p.m.

Friday & Saturday:
10.30.a.m. to 10.00pm

12.30.a.m. to 10.00.p.m.

St. Patrick’s Day (even when it falls on a Sunday):
12.30.p.m. to 10.00.p.m.

December 23rd (only when it falls on a Sunday)
12.30.p.m. to 10.00.p.m.

Christmas Eve:
10.30.a.m. to 10.00.p.m.

Christmas Eve (only when it falls on a Sunday):
12.30.p.m. to 10.00.p.m.

Eve of Good Friday:
10.30.a.m. to 10.00.p.m.

Eve of a public holiday (other than Christmas Eve), which falls on a weekday:
10.30.p.m. to 10.00.p.m.

Eve of a public holiday (other than Christmas Eve), which falls on a Sunday):
12.30.p.m. to 10.00.p.m.

Christmas Day:
Trading prohibited ALL day.


Why Choose Us?

Liquor Licensing is a complex and multi faceted process.

We pride ourselves on providing a simple, non technical road map with a speedy timeline for completion of the project.   Along the way, we will liaise directly with architects and accountants to leave you free to concentrate on your business.

For further information contact

Lorraine Compton

T: +353 1 234 2678

E: lorraine.compton@comptonsolicitors.ie

© Compton Solicitors January 2016

The Information in this document is provided subject to the disclaimer contained on the Compton Solicitors website. The material is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or any other advice.