The new Dublin City Council Development Plan (2016-2022) will be finalised in September this year. Drafting the plan offers local councillors the opportunity to make significant decisions on the future direction of the city. Unfortunately, for some it is simply an opportunity to pander to nimbyism as well as trying to force through illogical measures.
Forget the fact that many existing buildings wouldn’t get planning permission under the proposed amendments to the plan. One particular area of concern is the following proposal to be a stated objective of Dublin City:
“To prohibit the further expansion of off-licences or part off-licences unless a compelling case can be made that there is not an over-concentration of such uses in any one area. In this respect, any application for an off-licence/part off-licence should include a map of all such establishments located within a 1km radius of the proposed development. In relation to stand alone off-licences an audit of the existing off-licence floorspace provision within 1km and an analysis of the need for the proposal in the locality shall be provided”.
This is a serious additional layer of restrictions on what is an already heavily regulated retail activity. This move is separate to the restrictions proposed in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. It could prevent new outlets opening or existing retail locations branching into off-premise alcohol sales. It is a one-size-fits-all approach that ignores local employment, the specialist nature of products sold and changing consumer patterns. It shouldn’t be seen as the panacea for tackling public drunkenness and anti-social behaviour.
It is contrary to the stated ambition in the draft development plan to “actively promote and protect the range of specialist shops within the inner city, which contribute to the character and attractiveness of the city as a destination for shopping”. Imagine specialist whiskey, wine or beer shops being prevented from opening because there’s a generic off-licence somewhere within a kilometre of their proposed location. At the very least if the proposal remains, it would add significantly to the high costs of applying to open a shop.
Craft beer has been gaining a significant foothold in the likes of Spar, Centra and smaller Tesco stores. This proposal could limit stores such as these moving into off-sales, if they aren’t already selling alcohol. It also could limit new stores opening and offering alcohol sales. They already have to cease sales by 10pm and can be prevented from sales at the discretion of the Guards.
This proposal is not based on empirical evidence or regulatory logic. Why not let the market decide on this one? Off-licences are a source of employment, collect considerable duties and VAT for the State and would pay commercial rates to the council. Many are supporters of independent craft producers, providing them with a sales channel for their products and an important alternative to pubs.